Where Were You in 2020?
The initial shut down seemed to offer “time outside of time” - previously scheduled time that was now available. I thought it might be a chance for me to delve deeper into music, to write more songs, sing and work on my instrumental musical chops. But it didn’t exactly work out that way. 2020 left me feeling more stunned and less industrious, feelings of fear and uncertainty settled in as the year unfolded.
I found myself reading the news compulsively. I watched as the country (and world) fell victim to a virus. We had awakenings on many levels. The racial injustice that was further exposed last year is horrendous and heartbreaking. The intense and often hate-filled polarity along political and religious lines continues to disturb me. I have sometimes struggled processing my own emotions to our rapidly changing world, as I tried to help my therapy clients do the same. I am continuing to try and listen more and show up as best I can.
One of the saving graces for me was found in Kristin Neff’s book Self-Compassion. Self-compassion allows me to pause and not get stuck in shame. It does not take away responsibility for my actions, it connects me to a shared humanity with others who are also struggling and gives me a way forward. I have used this passage from Neff’s work to help me when I am feeling I “should have done more.”
When I pause and note the difficulty of the moment, the action of kindness and compassion often settles on some kind of music, from listening, to writing, to playing. When I let self-compassion be my guide, my body and spirit let me know if I need to dance wildly to music to release pent up energy or sing out loud (emphasis on the LOUD) or sing tenderly or listen to a treasured album for comfort.
As I emerge from 2020, and light returns to my mornings and evenings, music seems to be bubbling and filling more and more moments. Creative inclinations are tingling in my fingers as I play my guitar and other instruments; I am humming and singing more. I realize that I learned quite a lot about connecting musically over the Internet. We have all been stretched in reaching out online to connect with others, even as we have had to reach inward to find meaning.
Music Across the Miles
It is not that online music was unavailable pre-COVID. These times just necessitated doing so much more of it. And the technology has been adapting and evolving to this need. I may have spent more hours this past year trying to figure out how to play music online than actually playing the music, but I’ve picked up some useful tools.
Online Concerts. I gave a CD Release YouTube concert in December, On the Journey (available on my YouTube channel). Friends and family who have never seen me perform had a chance to do so, from Northern Ontario to Southern California. I have also enjoyed seeing favorite artists offering music from their homes. Here is one of my favorites: Orpheus by Sara Bareilles
Online groups and classes. I learned a great song from a religious service I watched that took place in New York City. I have friends and therapy clients that have found kinship in various support groups and/or spiritual teachers from across the country and world.
Music making. I co-facilitated a Chant Circle through American Music Therapy Association with Daughters of Harriet (check us out on our Facebook page) via Zoom. The five of us Daughters each live in different states and usually only get to sing together once a year at conferences. I have also been singing weekly with the Open Circle Singers, a now-virtual community choir led by Peggy Taylor and David Edwards. I have been surprised by how much I enjoy being muted when others lead. I can accompany with any instrument I feel like playing and sing in any range without hurting others. Although, recently I forgot to mute my mic on a song, the look on everyone’s face informed me that my loud drumming did not match the tempo of the song. Oops! My self-compassion practicing sure helped with that moment.
Jamming together online can be a major boost and allow not only for fun jamming with friends, but open up possibilities for music therapists to work with people who are isolated or otherwise unable to receive services. Jamulus and JamKazam are two commonly used jamming sites. I look forward to more technological progress on making music together online!
I have been experimenting with recording in the app Acapella. Here is a song I wrote recently in reflection of the times and the polarization we are facing in our country. I am joined via video by my friend and colleague Samantha Sinai.
I look forward to the day when we can be making music together in person again. Nothing can replace that type of connection. Connecting with people online now has its place, too.
I look forward to singing with you more in 2021, on and off screen!
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Dr. Barbara Dunn: