Finding the positives in the pandemic.

The world has been turned upside down — for all of us. It’s almost as if we’re moving through the stages of grief; anger, yes, there’s plenty of that. Depression is certainly doing the rounds too. Denial I’m familiar with. I remember thinking the “early adopters” of isolation were overreacting then barely a day later reality kicked in and I figured I’d have to adapt or put my singers at risk.

One stage we might still be struggling with, though, is acceptance: we’re all obsessed with the future, wondering when this will end and cataloguing the things we’ll do when it does. We’re already planning who we’re going to visit, where we’ll travel, and what we’ll buy, as soon as things “get back to normal”.

I wonder, though, if we might be missing something valuable in our reluctance to accept things as they are now. Because as horrible as this virus is, it has given us one significant gift:

The pause.

Yes, so much of our headspace is simply focused on survival right now. But more than ever we also have the chance to pause and reflect. To figure out how we can emerge from this disaster stronger. To really think about why we do what we do.

Questioning the “why”.

I’ve found myself questioning everything. Why am I a choir director? What is my mission in life? Is that still relevant when thousands of people around the world are fighting for their lives, when so many people are grieving not only loved ones, but a lost way of life?

And it took me a few days to come to the conclusion that in this scary ass corona-world of constant change, some things remain the same.

The world is still turning, gravity still works, the sun still comes up every morning, that piece of pie still contains a gazillion calories even when we’re locked up at home…

And the big one: there is still music to be sung.

I’ve said it before and it bears repeating — there has never been a culture in which people didn’t sing or make music. Coronavirus or not, there are still millions of people around the world who need music now, more than ever.

If you ask me to get to the bottom of it all, what I really want to do in this lifetime, in this world, upside down or not, is inspire people to sing. To inspire you to inspire people to sing. That’s all.

If we can’t do that shoulder to shoulder, well, I’ve gotta come up with other ways.

This is the new normal — at least for now — so I figure that we, as choir directors, as musicians, as singers, have to find the wins where we can. Life has given us a ridiculously large pile of lemons so we’re sure as Hell going to whip up some lemonade.

Yes, even in a pandemic, we can find the positives.

Sure, I’m scared. Aren’t we all? But I’m excited right now too. I’m excited to have found such clarity on my mission in life. I’m excited to find new opportunities to inspire people to sing. I’m excited to spread hope, joy, and love in the midst of the darkness. And I’m excited to create win-win situations — and help you do the same.

As community choir leaders, we’re also community leaders. We have an opportunity to hold up the singers in our choir during these challenging times. And we have an advantage over performance-oriented choirs. After all, for us, the experience has always been more important than the final product. In person or online, we can still provide awesome singing experiences, right?

No, Zoom isn’t perfect, for directors or singers. It’s frustrating that we can’t hear each other. Yet our community is strong — even seeing each other on our screens and hearing the music we’re used to singing together is a balm for the soul.

And online singing sure has some upsides. Last Friday we had 150 people from around the world join in with our “Zoom Sing for All” event. Singing from the privacy of our own homes is strangely liberating — with no one to hear us we feel braver, more inclined to try out new harmonies. You can goof off and have fun with the music in a way you might not if you were surrounded by your choir mates…

Musical heroes in your own home.

And while the rest of the world has never felt further away, in some ways it’s more accessible than ever. Musicians are grounded, their busy travel and performance schedules cancelled for the time being. So why not create another win-win by inviting them to join you on Zoom?

We get to offer our singers master classes with people who’d normally be far too busy to guest teach, our singers learn from some true masters, and we get to support musicians who are looking for more work.

Wednesday April 8th Sing Portland members will be joined by Barbara McAfee for her full voice training. We get to do fun exercises to sound like earth, water, fire, air and metal. Again, in the freedom of our own homes we can get funky and not disturb any other singers (house mates will just have to roll with it — or join in for free!).

Sharing the power of song even further.

Yet another win-win: with so many people cooped up in their houses, we choir directors have a captive audience — an audience in need of a hefty dose of community, fun, and inspiration. Inviting people to experience the uplifting power of choir through free Zoom sing-alongs is a beautiful, generous act, but it can also help you grow your choir.

All you have to do is remember not to give everything away for free! Encourage free visitors to sign up for all the perks you offer as part of your online choir, such as  online sheet music, practice tracks, guest teachers, and an online community.

I would never have wished for any of this, and much like you, I can’t wait for the day that we can all go hiking again, meet our friends for a coffee, and boy, am I looking forward to throwing open Sing Portland!’s physical doors once again.

But that doesn’t mean that we can’t find ways to enjoy this pause.

To use it to inspire even more people to sing. To grow our choir businesses and communities. To create benefits for our paying singers. To provide opportunities for the singers, musicians, and composers who’ve inspired us over the years. To rekindle our love of singing. To provide singers with a lifeline, a break from isolation. To reconnect with our sense of purpose, our “why”.

To find every damn positive we can in this pandemic.

 

Finding opportunities to create community among my paying members is keeping me going right now and inspiring choir directors around the world to do the same for your communities is a huge part of my “why”. With my Covid special I offer community choir/song/improv leaders WEEKLY coaching to help you offer perks to your singers, while also being generous with free online events. Normally I charge $200/month for group coaching but right now it’s $200 for April through June.

Sing Portland!: business as usual (kind of)…

If you need your own lifeline, something to look forward to each week, and a chance to belt out some tracks in the comfort of your own home, we have THREE weekly Zoom sessions, improv, pop, and oral tradition. And instead of having to pick your favorite, our new half-price membership gives you access to all three so there’s (literally!) never been a better time to dip your toe in the water and reconnect with your love of music. See you there?