So, Whatcha Doin?
Watch (Sock Face) Teper’s new YouTube series

Early in COVID lockdown, singer/songwriter, improviser, filmmaker and interdisciplinary artist Ronley Teper tried an experiment: she grabbed a sock puppet out of a bin (she’d been making them as gifts for the kids at her monthly all ages Dakota Tavern matinee residency) and filmed an impromptu FaceTime chat with her friend and musical collaborator Tim Posgate. That five minute conversation between Sock Face Teper and Posgate featuring banjo, folk, metal, cashews, naps and laughs, became the pilot, or Episode 1, of a weekly web series that is now 23 episodes and counting.

So, Whatcha Doin? is part therapy, part comedy, part arts education, and part improvised entertainment for audiences of all ages who are interested in learning more about music and the arts in a whimsical, joyful, COVID-safe remote way. Sock Face sets aside the big questions long enough to shine a light on some small yet surprisingly deep lines of questioning: in Episode 2 Benjamin Hackman (The Holy Gasp) details various kinds of writer’s block; in Episode 6 trumpet player Nicole Rampersaud defines improvisation; in Episode 13 instrument maker Dave Gould postulates how early instruments came to be; and in Episode 16 singer Alex Samaras teaches vocal warm up techniques — for instance, breathe in deeply and imagine you’re smelling a rose.

“It was a good distraction from reading the news all the time,” says Ronley Teper, who’s been busy researching, directing, interviewing, and editing video for the series from her home, with some additional editing and animation by her partner Saúl Lederman. “I still wanted to hang out with my musician friends and do creative things but wasn’t feeling inspired to play my own instruments. I know so many amazing artists and musicians who I wanted to showcase.”

The series was also a good way to stay connected with families who had been coming to the monthly all ages Dakota Tavern matinee Ronley Teper and The Lipliners had begun early this year and that was gaining momentum as COVID hit. “I wanted to give the kids and parents something fun and informative to look forward to each week, especially while we were all trapped in our houses.” Teper says.

So, Whatcha Doin? is a show and tell of instruments familiar and unusual (guitar, piano, synths, drums, viola, accordion, harmonica, trumpet, trombone, omnichord, mbira, double bass, flute … ) and also an accessible exploration of music theory and technique by local artists and educators. In newer episodes Dave Clark (The Woodshed Orchestra, Rheostatics) talks about rhythm and bassist Andrew Downing the art of arranging. The show also branches out into artists’ studios for interviews with multimedia artist Nava Waxman (Episode 11), photographer Femke Berkhout (Episode 17) and musician turned potter Aly Livingston (Episode 15).

For Teper, So, Whatcha Doin? was a way she could do what she does best during a pandemic: perform and improvise with friends. “I can still jam with people,” she says. “I can use different voices, puppets, animation, projections. I have found a new creative outlet in filmmaking and it has an even larger potential for spreading joy and fun.”

To see all episodes of “So, Whatcha Doin?”, check out
Ronley Teper’s YouTube channel playlist