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Online recorder choir welcomes all

A profile of one of the COVID-19 Creative Response Grant projects.

The Office of Vice President for the Arts has created a grant program that cultivates artistic engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 Creative Community Response Grant is open to students, faculty and staff, in recognition of the impact COVID-19 has had on the entire Stanford community and the need for everyone to find new modes of self-expression, communication and connection. Grants are awarded on a rolling deadline until May 10, 2020. Several projects have already begun to take shape, providing the Stanford community novel means of coping with and even thriving in the COVID-19 reality.

An online recorder choir is one of the projects that bring the Stanford community a little closer even as people must remain far apart.

Online recorder choir welcomes all

The Stanford Recorder Choir before sheltering in place. Photo courtesy of the choir.

With all ensembles unable to rehearse or perform in Stanford’s performance spaces, COVID-19 has drastically changed the performing arts landscape on campus and beyond. In the face of the postponement of live music making, a group of students including Julie Fukunaga, ’20, Olivia Popp, ’21, Merlin MacGillivray, ’20, Michael Svolos, ’20, Kalea Woods, ’20, and Omar El-Sabrout, ’19, are organizing new virtual opportunities for musical collaboration with the Stanford Recorder Choir.

Originated in 2018, the ensemble was forced to  go digital in the spring quarter but retains its core tenets. “Our emphasis is on inclusivity. We want people to have access to playing in a musical ensemble no matter their experience or inexperience with music,” says Fukunaga.

The recorder, an instrument that can be picked up fairly quickly and that many learn in elementary school music classes, proved to be the perfect tool to unite students with a wide variety of musical backgrounds. On the questionnaire for prospective choir-members, the organizers describe the ensemble’s communal ethos: “We think it is extremely important for everyone to have a creative outlet during this time, so everyone is welcome, especially those with no musical or other artistic background.”

The COVID-19 Creative Response Grant will support the purchase and delivery of high-pitched recorders (sopraninos) traditional recorders (sopranos) and lower-pitched instruments (altos), and the choir will meet and rehearse online. Students with more experience will coach those who are new to the instrument, and all participants will work together toward a final, digital concert of originally arranged songs.

In a time when performance has become impossible on the Stanford campus, the recorder choir project has the goal of showing that anyone can be an artist and that, even through social distancing, music can bring people together.

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