Do you ever remember a time like this? Well … no, of course we don’t, because there’s never been anything quite like this! We have survived 9/11, hurricanes, earthquakes, stock market upheavals and crashes, the Challenger and Columbia explosions, wars, tornadoes, floods, countless mass shootings, forest fires and other national and regional tragedies that left us with that sick “thud” kind of sick feeling in the pits of our stomachs.
But this is different. Lots different. So far, it’s been both worse and maybe not as bad as some of our other national tragedies … and that’s just it … it’s way beyond a national tragedy … it’s a global crisis. Even the world wars left some nations relatively untouched, but COVID-19 will geographically leave no stone unturned.
This seems worse because it’s so pervasive and present to everyone. There seems to be no place to hide, except to sequester ourselves as much as we can in our homes and apartments, washing our hands a dozen or more times a day.
But in some ways, perhaps it’s not as bad as some other crises. I mean, at least we know a few things about how to protect ourselves, our families and our neighbors. The CDC and other government agencies are working round the clock at full capacity to inform us and keep us updated. The whole medical community has been awesome, doing an amazing job often with inadequate facilities, resources or rest. Local organizations, churches, restaurants, businesses, and many high profile personalities have dug deep to help provide assistance. We are all going to need to dig deep to get through this time, something that is made all the more challenging because of the financial uncertainty facing all of us. By all of us working together, we have a chance to slow the spread of the virus until there are better medicines and procedures to combat it.
What makes this crisis so difficult is that it is truly world-wide. But that’s also what makes it easier in some ways. As Nora O’Donnell at the CBS Evening News has begun saying at the end of her telecast each evening, “We’re all in this together!”
Indeed we are … we’re all in this together. And there’s something remarkably comforting about that. The virus is no respecter of education, language, skin color, wealth or lack of it, social status, geography, or political persuasion. We all can contract this virus, and it will take all of us working together to defeat it.
Most of us reading this article are choral musicians. We may be directors, singers, students, parents of teenagers, music educators, of other interested parties. I have been amazed at the number of choral directors in universities, high schools, middle schools, and churches who have described themselves “in grief” or “mourning” over the loss of the last three months of our academic school years. Our Facebook feeds have been filled with photos of empty choir rooms and dark, vacated performance halls, stark symbols of semesters cut short just before all the year’s hard work was about to pay off.
What is particularly touching to me is the obvious level of love choir directors have for their students. It’s no wonder that our work means so much to these students, because we, their leaders, are investing so much of ourselves in this work. While there might be a small part of each of us that enjoys the break from the constant responsibilities, the biggest part of us longs to make music and to continue building the relationships and friendships which glorious choral music requires. It’s easy for us directors to feel lost.
The YouthCUE staff has spent some recent time together – properly distanced from each other, mind you – discussing ways to survive these new times of uncertainty, whether it ends up being a few weeks or several months. Frankly, I believe you and I need to be prepared for a longer term than any of us might today imagine. Being prepared for a longer haul certainly will not hurt us in the event that the crisis ends sooner than we think. But if we do not properly prepare ourselves emotionally for some months of this disruption, then the longer this thing drags out, the worse we’re going to feel.
The YouthCUE staff is centering our thinking around one major theme: REDEEMING THE TIME. Scripture teaches us something about this concept in Ephesians 5:15-16 and also in Colossians 4:5. To redeem means to buy back, to salvage for all its worth, and to make the best of what we have. You’re going to hear us talk a great deal about redeeming the time.
As we think more about REDEEMING THE TIME, we will hang our thinking on three basic hooks: community, ideas, and beauty.
As we seek to redeem the time through community, YouthCUE is taking several initiatives that I believe you will find interesting. Everything we are offering is free during the worst part of this crisis, so please do not hear us selling snake oil to infuse our ministry with money. During the rest of 2020, we are offering these programs and resources to all who need them at no cost to you.
First, our monthly newsletter will address the most front and center topics we are facing. The free newsletter arrives in snail mail box at the beginning of every month. Please take a few minutes to look through it and read the feature topics which jump out at you and catch your eye. Let us know what you think, communicating back with us via email. It would only take a couple of email sentences to help us communicate with you. Tell us what you need. Let us know if we’re hitting the target or, if not, how we can do a better job of providing for you.
Second, our every-other-Tuesday episodes of CUEcast are now being released EVERY Tuesday … beginning today. At 6am Central every Tuesday morning, you will have a fresh episode waiting for you as you drive to work, jog the neighborhood, or listen as you exercise. Each episode will discuss strategies for this crisis until it is over, providing new ideas and insights for navigating these challenging, choppy waters with your student choirs.
Third, our website, www.youthcue.org has been dramatically updated and made much easier to use. We want and need your involvement and feedback as we continually adjust the website to better meet your needs.
Fourth, there will soon be an array of new online, virtual resources to support you: virtual roundtables, webinars, online discussion groups, study groups, idea think-tanks, topic symposiums, the list goes on. All of these are provided at no cost to you during 2020.
Finally, I offer myself and the YouthCUE staff as a friendly listening ear for anything you are facing, professionally, personally, musically, ministerially. I can already tell you that we do not have all the answers, but we might know someone who can help you find the answers you need. And even when there are no answers in sight and when we need to lean hard into the mysteries of God, we will seek to walk through those times with you as a travel companion. My email address is [email protected] and I encourage you to get in touch for any way we at YouthCUE might assist you and be your friend.
As we develop the safe and caring community we all need through this time, we will also explore new ideas to give your ministry new energy and expanded horizons to pursue. These concepts will be with us long after this crisis has past. Again, we’re all in this together, and as we communicate throughout the YouthCUE community, we will be able find new solutions, new approaches, and creative collaboration.
YouthCUE has always been about the appreciation and pursuit of beauty. It is our hope in these challenging months to be able to share beauty with you in a variety of ways. LOOK AT THE WORLD concerts will be made available via vimeo. Clips of Festivals, National Honor Choir, and CUEChoral Ambassadors will appear on social media from time to time and will be occasionally posted in their entireties on the website. Livestream performances of small groups will be made available. Young solo artists will share their gifts. All these expressions of beauty will come to you to remind all of us of why we do what we do with student choirs.
There’s still so much to share, but we are out of time, so we must bring this episode to an end. Please join us next Tuesday for another weekly episode of CUEcast. As we continue to create soundtracks for life, remember … we’re all in this together.
Blessings and friendship,