Musicmaking, But at a Distance

My current makeshift practice room set-up is quite representative of the quarantine situation I’ve been subjected to: my violin case is propped up on a chair with the support of a few suitcases, my foldable wire music stand resting in the corner of the room. Music can seem especially difficult in a time like this, with performance opportunities dwindling and social distancing preventing in-person music lessons or collaboration. Strangely, in the midst of lost opportunities, quarantine improved my relationship with music.

When learning at Groton transformed into a totally different online experience, my music lessons stayed the same. I’ve been doing FaceTime lessons with my violin teacher for years, and the steadiness of my music routine was very comforting, especially when it seemed like every other aspect of my life was changing. I first started with my teacher when I lived in Chicago, and there would be weekly studio classes. They were mini-recitals where all of my teacher’s students would come together to perform a piece they were working on. Unfortunately, after my move to Shanghai, I wasn’t able to attend studio class anymore. Once coronavirus hit, all her students transferred to virtual music lessons, and I got an invitation to studio class for the first time in years. Though this zoom version of studio class lacked the cutting nerve of a live audience, the weekly performances were incredibly nostalgic, bringing me back to some of my earlier violin memories.

My spare time also allowed me to take a deep delve into an application at the bottom of my computer screen: GarageBand. I had occasionally played around with the program on my off days, but the past few months have allowed me to really have fun with some arrangements. With the help of my headphone mic, I tried my hand at arranging some a cappella songs and recording some Pentatonix covers. Though my mixing and audio quality were far from amazing, I ended the summer with a folder on my laptop dedicated to all my creations.

It didn’t really matter that I was playing off an unbalanced music stand or singing into a flimsy mic—this summer has been one of the most fulfilling periods of time for my music. I definitely miss collaborating with other musicians, but there is a certain charm to music-making in the comfort and solitude of my bedroom.