Music During a Pandemic: Pursuing Christ-Like Artistry and Personal Safety

Music & Arts * By Maria Foti

Maria Foti is a Sophomore Music education major. She serves as the Assistant PR Director for the Roberts Chorale. She has noticed the toll the pandemic had taken on herself as well as others, and wanted to rally the thoughts of peers to write this article on how music has changed, as well as what has remained the same.

The Roberts Chorale joyfully posing on their pre- COVID Florida tour last January.

I thank God every day that, as a musician, I can still do what I love.

Bailey Thompson

Over the past year, we have all adapted to a world that we never could have imagined. As we watch our brothers and sisters toil through unprecedented struggles, the artistic community has grown weary of lying in wait for the day when we can all safely enjoy creating and consuming live music. In a time rife with artistic frustration, it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. That’s why we, The Roberts Chorale, have pursued a way to make music in a socially-distanced, safe, and enriching environment.
It takes a lot of trial and error to develop a way to sing safely during a respiratory pandemic. When the thing you love most could be the thing that infects the people around you, it’s important to take the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of those around you. This process of developing socially-distanced artistic practices has involved a lot of trial and error. Sometimes it has been difficult and painful. However, the end result is something so beautiful and rich: true joy and worship. Somehow, the physical distance between us has brought us all closer emotionally, and I can truly say The Roberts Chorale is an ensemble that is connected like never before. We’ve always been a family. Now, we’re an artistic safe haven for those souls starved of musical worship.
I could ramble on about the importance of music during a pandemic, but it’s not enough just to hear it from me. Therefore, Assistant PR Director Maria Foti has compiled an interview of chorale members from all different majors, class ranks, and viewpoints, to give a more detailed look at what it is like to be a musician here at Roberts during a pandemic. Each member of The Roberts Chorale has something important to share, and I think you will enjoy listening to their thoughts.
Thank you, Maria, for putting this article together. It would not have been possible without your hard work, creativity, and dedication.
I hope you all enjoy reading the thoughts of our members. We thank you for your time and support of the artistic community here at Roberts.
Abbey Greene, PR Director

The Roberts Chorale
Introduce yourself with your name, year, and area of study.
My name is Orlando Boxx, and I am a Senior Vocal Music BA major and Marketing Minor.
My name is Julia LeVan, I am a sophomore choral music education major
My name is AnnaMae Humbert. I am a freshman nursing major.
My name is Bailey Thompson and I am a junior vocal music education major.
My name is Maggie Tatro I am a Junior Music Education major.

Before Chorale/College, what kind of experience did you have with music? What was your motivation to continue in college?

I have been singing since before I could speak. I’ve been in choir since 4th grade and went to Eastman Community Music School from 6th through 8th grade and then again Senior year of high school. I have done musicals as well, starting in 4th grade. I have also sung on worship teams, with a band, and sang backup on an album. I love music and I wanted to learn more about how to write music and to just grow as a vocalist and a musician.- O.B

I’ve done choir all throughout elementary, middle, and high school! It’s totally my happy place. I’ve also been a part of musicals for just as long. Music and teaching are some of my greatest passions, and I want to continue to serve the Lord in the way I’m best able! – JL

Music has always been an outlet for me. Next to God it is my life line so finding ways to stay involved with it as I move through life is important. I grew up around music. I started taking piano lessons when I was four years old and was involved in many different events for singing. I was in my high school’s choir, band, and jazz band. I participated in our schools musicals and I had the privilege of being a part of All County, Area-All State, and Conference All State choirs. -A.H

I was very fortunate to grow up in a suburban public school where music education was just as important as the main core subjects; there was never a year when I was not involved in some way, shape, or form. I was also very active in music at my church. I have continued with music in college because I realized my passion for music is a part of my purpose and have, therefore, decided to pursue a career in the performing arts. – B.T

The talented and diverse Roberts Chorale at a recent retreat.

Choir in middle and high school. My choir director was outstanding and really wonderful and supportive. He really encouraged me to pursue what I love which is music!- M.T

Although it can be difficult at times, what would you say are some of the hidden blessings of being able to gather and sing during this pandemic?
Just being able to make music. A lot of things shut down, high level productions closed, so the fact that we are able to still get together and make good music is amazing to me. Also just community, having a group of people who know how it feels to sing during a pandemic and how it feels to be uneasy and anxious at times is a big comfort.- O.B

Singing is such a great release at the end of the day. I’ve loved gathering with the Chorale because, although we are physically separated, we’re singing the same things and it’s all kind of one big message that we’re still here and we still love each other.- J.L

To me music is a language in which all nations, all peoples know and understand. It is a connection; oftentimes the only way to express what’s on your heart or reach out to another’s soul. With the pandemic we are unable to give hugs, shake hands, high fives, etc. But in a way we can do this with music even though we are twelve feet apart. Which is something I greatly appreciate. – A.H

I thank God every day that, as a musician, I can still do what I love. When the world shut down, most of us thought that music would just stop. Unfortunately, it did for a while, but we have bounced back safely and are discovering new ways to learn, rehearse, and perform. In all honesty, we’ve made the best out of our circumstances and have used the pandemic to help develop our skills and relationships with one another.- B.T

Being able to still create beautiful sounds with people I love is amazing. I love choral music and I enjoy the creativity that has been forced through the pandemic. -M.T

How have you found that your passion for music and Christ has strengthened through the events of this past year?
Trials are some times when we are able to see how God works most clearly. Through this year I’ve been able to see more clearly God’s provision in my life and I’m able to experience His presence through singing.- J.L

God reaches us and talks to us in many different ways for different people. I believe that one of his methods of getting my attention or reaching me is through music. Last semester being my first semester in college, along with the pandemic had made things quite stressful and I felt burnt out most of the time. However in chorale there have been lyrics that I feel God was speaking to me through that reminded me of his strength, and his presence, and to cast my worries and fears onto him. – A.H

I think everyone can agree that it’s been a really tough year for us all, but in the midst of a storm, there is light. I’m learning to trust God more and appreciate the blessings that are given to me for what they are, rather than what I personally want out of them. Music is such a beautiful gift and we, musicians or not, often take it for granted.- B.T

My gratitude has been strengthened during this time. It’s easy to get caught up in the “why, God?” mentality, but in reality the fact that we’re able to sing and perform and worship and fellowship together is such a blessing.- M.T

What would you say to students who want to get involved in Roberts Music who may be uneasy/nervous due to the current state of the pandemic? How would you encourage them? What has helped you push through?
As President my top priority has been making sure everyone feels safe during this pandemic, yet welcomed into our family. We have taken extra cautionary steps to make sure that we are following all COVID guidelines. We are all in it together and we have been able to make amazing music through it all, and grow extremely close as a choir. I’ve been able to push through because I know that I have other people supporting me through it all. – O.L

Oh my gosh don’t worry!! Roberts has been super duper safe, I haven’t lost any of the relationships I’ve formed due to the pandemic, and the fact that we get to sing together at all is rare and wonderful. We’re all here to help each other get through and so that knowledge of a safe support group has helped me get through it. Literally come we would all LOVE to have you!- J.L

Trials are some times when we are able to see how God works most clearly. Through this year I’ve been able to see more clearly God’s provision in my life and I’m able to experience His presence through singing.

Julia LeVan

Do it. Plain and simple. In my opinion it is better to try something new sooner rather than later. That way if you really enjoy it you will have more time to participate and experience it, and choosing to be some part of music activity at Roberts is a choice you won’t regret. Especially with the pandemic, Roberts music is a great place to socialize and spend time with others while still being safe. As a Nursing major coming into the realm of music at Roberts via Chorale was intimidating, however everyone is incredibly welcoming and kind. The atmosphere is hardworking yet fun, and it’s a nice break from having my nose in biology or anatomy & physiology text books all day. – A.H

The music department here at Roberts is so welcoming. I would even go so far as to say that The Roberts Chorale is my second family. What we do is not easy, especially during a pandemic, but making music with talented students who are even better people, all for the glory of God, is something worth fighting for and working hard towards. Safety and the physical health of each member come first, but emotional and spiritual health are close seconds. Knowing that each and every single member of this group will support me through thick and thin makes all the difference. I would not have made it through this season of life without my relationship with Christ, music, and the community that is The Roberts Chorale.- B.T

The Roberts music community is the best you’ll find as far as spiritual and emotional support. There is so much love and community here and support. Our musicianship and character are cultivated by the community and it’s wonderful. – M.T

Thank you all for reading this article on how the pandemic has affected us, and thank you to everyone who continues to support the Roberts Chorale from within our choir as well as in our community. It is because of hard-working individuals that we are able to continue rehearsing in a safe and socially-distant way, in hopes that soon we will be able to sing again in a world post-COVID.
Maria Foti

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