More than Music—Finding Ways to Carry on Despite a Global Pandemic

More than Music—Finding Ways to Carry on Despite a Global Pandemic

Northwest Nazarene University
Feb 3, 2021

By Dr. Philip Miller, Department of Music Chair

Music Breathes
Music Speaks
Music Breathes Beauty into Ugliness
Music Speaks Love into Hatred
Music Breathes Light into Darkness
Music Speaks Truth into Deception
Music Breathes Life into Death
Music Speaks Hope into Despair

The realities of the power of music became all too clear when the world’s ensembles went silent in early 2020. I was attending a conference with many of my other regional choral colleagues just as the full realities of COVID-19 were coming into focus. It became clear that a shutdown of our music ensembles would inevitably come. The stories of super-spreader events happening in choral rehearsals spread across the news, and the risks of continuing ensembles were too great. With a heavy heart, I pushed out the announcement that all music rehearsals at NNU would immediately cease. The date was March 12, 2020. 

In many ways, the days and months since March feel like years. It seems like every day we had to face something we have never faced before and were forced to make decisions we had never had to make. 

Being unable to gather together with the other faculty and students.

Having to finish the school year with remote learning.

Having to learn the best methods for remote learning literally overnight.

COVID-19 continuing to spread and communities struggling to keep up.

Shutdowns causing incredible job loss, especially in the arts.

News stories emerging of how higher education would never recover and students wouldn’t come back in the fall.
All kinds of different timelines on when (and even if) things would ever be normal again.

And then in the middle of all that darkness, it happened. Artists all across the world began to band together through discussion boards, social media, and video chat (I didn’t even know Zoom existed before March) to figure out the way forward. How could the arts survive in these unprecedented times? How could the very important gift of music still be offered to the world?

The creation and sharing of online music lessons came first. Teachers and artists banded together to create dynamic virtual content to share with their students and the public. Virtual choirs began to pop up all over the internet as directors and ensembles continued their work in new and innovative ways. 

Multiple national arts organizations combined their resources to research and understand how COVID spread and how musicians could work to mitigate that spread while performing or rehearsing. The world came together and the arts began to battle back. 

Over the summer, I worked with my colleagues, researched and prayed about how NNU Music could return in the fall. Would our students even come back? If so, how do we make music again? Then, one by one, the NNU Music students began to commit to coming back. In fact, we were even growing larger than the year before!

So, the NNU Music Department is up and running again. Our rehearsals certainly look different; the masks, social distancing, symptom checking, and weekly COVID testing present challenges. But we are together, breathing light into darkness and hope into despair.

On October 1, nearly seven months after being silenced, NNU Music presented a concert on our beautiful campus. Concert Band, Bella Voce, Northwesterners, NNU Jazz, and University Choir and Orchestra all performed. We were outside and still following all of our protocols, but we performed! What an amazing day and an answer to prayer. 

We continue to work on creative ways to bring you music. Just a few weeks ago, the NNU Film School partnered with the Music Department to film a performance of the song “Is He Worthy?” Lights and cameras filled the campus quad and almost 200 performers and crew worked together on the project. 

So, we are back. The students at NNU are using music once again to bring Beauty, Love, Light, Truth, Life, and Hope to our campus community and to all of you. 

Pray for us as we continue to work to keep the music playing.