Illinois, Here I stay!
Last week I wrote about a planned trip to California to work with Rebecca and to visit family. Now with the spread of the coronavirus and social distancing as real policy, I am staying home. All concerts, parades, and sporting events are canceled here in Chicago. People are anxious and afraid of the uncertainty that faces us.
Here are some facts on the ground:
- All schools in Illinois are canceled for at least the next two weeks.
- My students did not get to perform for their parents because scheduled concerts were canceled.
- My students did not get to go to a music contest.
The students are disappointed and sad that they worked hard and didn’t get to showcase their work. I was disappointed too and wanted to do something to help channel their sadness into creative expression. So I came up with a creative way to build community.
On the Thursday and Friday before school was canceled, I recorded my students performing their music and sent links of the performances to families. During our parent/teacher conferences families watched these videos and were thrilled by the music.
“AWESOME! I like ‘Cello Squadron,’ too, sounds almost like ‘Ride of the Valkyries!’ Your quartet was terrific, that’s quite a concertmaster you have there!”
Americans have seen the Italian balcony singers as an expression of joy and resilience in a time of fear. I also think of the student violinist who was quarantined in Wuhan during the height of the outbreak. He took Skype lessons with his American violin teacher and practiced many hours every day. He later journaled how playing his violin took his mind off the very real fears he had for his friends and family who he could not visit.
Orchestra students performing during a rehearsal.
Photograph by Jenny Peters
Music soothes fear and anxiety
As a way of dealing with the uncertainty, I urged all the teachers at my school to encourage band and orchestra students to bring their instruments home over the extended break. I passed out new music and shared YouTube tutorials of the music with parents and students.
Online resources can help people feel connected
These ideas are also ideas that will help people all over the globe to feel connected through music. Rebecca and I intend to continue to share the gift of music with our ukulele community through books, online courses and live events. In a time of uncertainty, we encourage all of you to embrace the gift of music by playing your ukulele and being happy. It is said, “Music hath charms to soothe the wildest beast,” but at best we know music is much more than that: it is part of what makes us human. It is a safe place for our emotions. And it offers us a way to take our minds off of fear and anxiety.
Stay well and Happy Strumming!