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Music in the Age of Coronavirus

So ... a blog. Why am I writing this? This is not a sob story - it's just ... a story, a unique story in a sea of 7 billion unique stories. I know I am not the only one who has been affected by the Coronavirus epidemic of 2020 - we ALL have been affected. But ... I kind of feel it's important for me to get some of this stuff out of my head and onto a page.

One year ago, at the beginning of December 2019, I was knee-deep in making music with other people. I was a graduate student at Oregon State University, involved with three choirs and playing bass in a jazz combo. We were preparing the logistics for a winter holiday concert with the OSU-Corvallis Symphony orchestra, where between the choirs and orchestra we would have upwards of 200 people on stage. Immediately after that concert came finals, then I was preparing to go spend a week at my student teaching assignment, working with about 100 or so choir and band kids at Central High School up in Monmouth, . I was also just beginning to start afternoon rehearsals for the musical Mamma Mia at Corvallis High School, which I was in with my daughter Kate and another 75 people. In the spring, I was going to fill in as a church choir director for a few months so that the current director could take a well-deserved sabbatical. Looking back now, it's amazing that I was able to juggle that many rehearsals, performances, and responsibilities. But I was thriving, super busy, and loving every minute of it. I was preparing to be a full-time music teacher in the fall - teaching choir, band, guitar, music production, theory, all of it. I was on a roll.

That schedule and general being busy continued throughout the winter. The OSU choirs rolled through another term, the musical was up and ready to open by the end of February. My parents came up from California to visit hat first full weekend in March, where they watched Kate and I perform in Mamma Mia on Saturday, saw a performance of the OSU choirs on Monday, and saw Linnea (my eldest daughter) perform with her High School Choir on Tuesday. Mom and Dad flew back to California the next day (just in time, luckily).

Then came March 11, 2020. The corona virus became real, and the world started to shut down. In rapid succession, March Madness was cancelled, the NBA was postponed, Major league baseball was postponed. OSU students were told to stay at home, and everything went online. My student teaching gig was cancelled. We continued to hold online choir rehearsals at OSU, when everybody was singing at home, alone, while listening to a piano or to a taped rehearsal track, but it was never the same as singing together in person. We heard stories about the choir in Washington State, in which one person at a rehearsal was contagious and dozens of people got sick and a few died. Choir singers were "super-spreaders".

I was able to work with a group of high school students online to finish my capstone project for my MAT, and graduated in June. My daughters, along with almost every other student in the country, completed their school year online.

But for me, making music with others just stopped. What does one do when their daily life revolves around singing, and that rug gets pulled out from under them? I wish I could say that I just kept on going and my life wasn't affected. But that is not the case - I was affected.

The job market for music teachers got really slow, and like many others, I found myself unemployed when the new school year started. And my predilection for depression and anxiety reared its ugly head (more on that later, probably) and I found myself kind of paralyzed ... the lack of something pressing - work, rehearsals, performances - meant that I didn't DO anything, and doing nothing led to more doing nothing. A viscous cycle that kept me spiraling downward. I started painting in the fall (more on that later, too), which was been a good creative outlet, but it hasn't replaced singing with a choir.

Don't get me wrong - I still sing, by myself. I still write songs when the mood strikes, and play all my instruments. But singing in the same room with others, harmonizing, literally sharing frequencies ... is gone, for the time being, and I severely miss it. But I KNOW that there will be a day when we will sing together again, and I anxiously look forward to that day.

p.s. If you made it to the end of my first blog post, congratulations! I realize that this post is kind of soul-baring, and I for sure feel vulnerable now that I've gone back and re-read it. But: showing vulnerability should not be construed as showing weakness; rather, it is a necessary step in healing and growth.

Thanks for reading, and please feel free to comment or shoot me a note.


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