During my senior year of high school, I attended all-state choir in New York. It was an opportunity to sing with some of the best singers in the state – people I had never met before.
We brought an immense energy to the process and an eagerness to connect with each other, not only as singers but as people, as friends.
We went on to spend nearly 25 hours together over the course of four days, collaborating, singing, laughing, listening and sharing stories with each other and our director.
I will never forget one of the clearest messages our director, Tucker Biddlecome, from Vanderbilt University, shared with us.
“We do music because someday, somebody is going to need us, to need our music,” he said. “For the same reasons that doctors go to medical school because somebody is going to need their help one day, we as artists do music because somebody out there needs us.”
During these unprecedented times of COVID-19, I have struggled most with losing the community of in-person music and theater projects that I’ve become so used to participating in.
Over the past few months, I have found myself watching films and shows not for the sake of the narrative but to witness the collective performance of the actors on the screen.
I’ve felt jealous of their creative character moments. I’ve felt jealous of their collaborative scenes with other actors. As I felt like I was losing touch with my community of artists at Goshen College, I lost touch with myself as an artist. I thought this was a sign that I was done.
At times, it has felt easier to distract myself and ignore my desires to create and perform. But somehow, I cannot resist my craving for connection with others.
Even though theater companies all over the world have shut down, even though singers cannot perform live in concerts, we are still finding ways to press on. Virtual choir projects and Zoom plays bring out the creativity in all of us as artists.
At GC, we are working with necessary, protective equipment and still finding ways to meet together in ensembles for any amount of time. For some, it may be hard to accept that traditional performances won’t reappear for quite some time.
While I, too, am devastated by that knowledge, I have hope.
Because my craving for connection is fulfilled every time I talk about a play during a theater class, every time I sing with 40 masked people for choir and every time I virtually rehearse a monologue with my director.
I have discovered that connection is inherent within us, as long as we are intentional about reaching out. A simple laugh or empathetic sigh from a fellow artist is enough to make me feel less alone in this world of uncertainty.
During COVID-19 times, it may be easy to write art off as “frivolous” and “impractical.” And I will admit that, oftentimes, being a performer is difficult because of the backlash that we artists receive for wanting to pursue something that isn’t a “stable career.”
But art is all around us. Art is within us. Art is a career. Art is a way of living.
Our creativity will never be static. That is why we are constantly learning and adapting to our circumstances. Art represents and responds to the realities of humanity. And while everything continues to change and uncertainty is ever present, we will always need each other as fellow human beings.
That is why we do art – because someday, somebody will need us. Perhaps we will need them, too.
Bek Zehr is a senior music major and theater minor from Carthage, New York. In addition to music and theater, they like exploring sustainable ways of living and eating.