Take a midmorning walk in my neighborhood, strolling from block to block, and you’ll swear you are walking through a Charles Ives “Fourth of July”-like land. A guy in the next block plays a trumpet on his porch while his kids play in the yard. Around the corner someone plays a piano with an open window. My neighbor across the driveway is learning how to play a banjo, and I’m upstairs in my music room playing a violin and a viola. As one song fades from your ears, another comes into focus. They blend for a moment, and then the close instrument takes dominance. Until all of this stay-at-home situation happened, I had no idea these musicians were in my neighborhood.
A friend of mine plays once a week in a park with his jazz group.
I have a nine-year-old grandson who is playing the drums, and another grandson, age 8 who is learning the piano.
When the weather is ideal, I take my violin over to a park near the river and play my violin for the tall redwood trees, picnic tables, and anyone walking down the paths.
A couple of weeks ago, I was at a birthday party for one of my grandchildren in a park here in Portland. The party was five little boys riding their bicycles, masked, and staying apart by kicking a soccer ball around while their masked parents stood six feet apart and watched. My wife and I, in our 60’s and 70’s, sat apart from all the others on lawn chairs we brought from home.
Near the end of the hourlong party, I heard violins behind me! I turned around, and saw people arriving and tuning up for a student recital of Stumptown Violins in the park. Wearing masks and carrying blankets and lawn chairs, music stands and instruments, and sitting at safe distances, a group of people were about to perform for each other and their families.
Last Friday, four of us who are adult violin students of Mirabai Peart, joined her for a small violin soiree in a park. We stood in a small but well-spaced circle, masked like the rest of the world, and played for one another. Most of us hadn’t had a conversation with anyone outside our families in three or four months. It was delightful.
On July 26, those adult students and I will be joined by the other students - children, teenagers, and adults to play an outdoor violin concert for our families. It will be masked, spaced, and the picnic tables will be sanitized, but the music will flow without restrictions.
In the movie, Jurassic Park, Jeff Goldblum’s character, Dr. Malcom, comments on the misguided efforts of the park scientists to control dinosaur births on the island by creating only female dinosaurs. (You’ve got to see the movie to understand this loopy logic.) He smiles saying, “You don’t understand. You can’t do that. Life will find a way.”
Well, looking around at our nation in its current Covid-19 crisis, and the very necessary restrictions placed on all of us to reduce the likelihood of getting this awful virus, the stress of the past few months has been responded to in various degrees. Most of us are more than willing to do our part with wearing masks, hand-washing, social distancing, and so forth. We’ve sacrificed a lot for the sake of helping each other remain healthy, and we’ll continue to do so for as long as needed.
However, taking these limitations into account, we can still find ways to communicate and share art. I love hearing that trumpet in the mornings, that piano, the banjo next door, and the music groups in the park. As far as I know, covid-19 knows nothing about music.
I think at ten each morning, everyone should either go outside or open their windows and play whatever you like for five minutes. Just go and do it. Whether you’re a student, a professional, or anywhere in between, just play or sing. Forget how it may come across. It doesn’t matter if you play something completely different than the next person. Did you even know there are other musicians near you? Don’t be shy. Go outside each morning and knock out a tune for the world. We need it, and we welcome it. Plus, let’s face it, you’re a musician. It’s in your blood. You can’t help yourself, so let it sing! Music will find a way.
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