A barista, a pediatrician and an eight-year-old are all stuck at home.
That could be the set-up to a cheeky punchline, but it’s not. It's just life in California right now. Those three do, however, have something in common: They’re all coping with stay-at-home orders by playing music.
With Californians sheltering in place in response to the coronavirus outbreak, CapRadio is striving to share stories about how you're staying productive, distracted or — simply put — sane. So, we’re launching a project called Isolated Together and inviting you to send us audio recordings of what’s keeping you busy. Here's how to take part.
Are you cooking adventurous cuisine? Figuring out how to homeschool your kids? Exploring a new hobby? Caring for a loved one? We want to hear what that sounds like and why it’s meaningful to you in this moment.
We’ve already heard from a number of people who have turned to playing music. Some are using it as a vehicle for exploring big, unanswered questions; others say it offers an opportunity to step back from the stress of the outbreak.
“It’s really a whole-brain effort,” said Petr Janata, a cognitive neuroscientist at UC Davis who studies the psychology of music. “At times like this, when we want to shift our attention away from the steady stream of bad news, music is an excellent way of focusing our attention and also providing some pleasure.”
‘I Went Through That Too’
In mid-March, Chloe Anderson lost her job at an Oakland coffee shop partway through an afternoon shift.
Six Bay Area counties ordered people to shelter in place and most businesses had to close their doors.
So, she went home, plugged in her guitar and sketched out a song called “Radio Quarantine.”
“It was essentially me making the conscious effort to start writing music on the first day,” said the songwriter.
The order in the Bay Area was the first of its kind in the U.S., but it’s become the new normal in many parts of the country as states scramble to flatten the curve of the coronavirus outbreak.
Anderson says she kept the chord progression simple, allowing her to focus on lyrics that took on some of the big questions many Americans have on their minds.
“I think that we all kind of have a feeling of not knowing what's going on in this moment,” Anderson said. “Day by day, all this information is changing, [and] everyone has access to different information.”
The answers to those questions may not come easily, or quickly. But for Anderson, there’s value in the shared experience of uncertainty with whoever’s listening.
“I just wanted to have something that people could hear and, and say, ‘Yeah, I went through that too.’”
‘The Basic Rhythm Is Almost Meditative’
For Dr. Erik Fernandez y Garcia, a pediatrician in Sacramento, music offers shelter from the stress of the outbreak.
A native of the Meadowview neighborhood in south Sacramento, Fernandez y Garcia has been practicing the berimbau and caxixi when he’s away from the hospital. The percussive instruments originated in Africa and were later incorporated in a form of Brazilian martial arts called capoeira.
“I find that trying to work on getting the groove and the swing of the basic rhythm is almost meditative for me,” said Fernandez y Garcia. “[It] helps get my mind off of the anxieties that we're feeling in the healthcare industry.”
Fernandez y Garcia is on the front lines of the outbreak response. His patients are young, so they’re unlikely to face serious health complications if they get the virus. But he says many of them will still experience hardship and trauma stemming from the outbreak.
A parent or close relative may contract the virus, reshaping a child’s home life. The cancelation of school carries a multitude of risks, including isolation from peers and a lack of access to nutritional foods.
Fernandez y Garcia says concern for his patients can be overwhelming at times, but playing the berimbau and caxixi offers a rare respite.
‘A Great Chance For Them To Get Along’
Eight-year-old Charlie Haworth of Sacramento is taking advantage of the time away from school to learn the trumpet.
His 14-year-old sister, Paige, is teaching him to play. The lessons usually only last 5 to 10 minutes, but Charlie is making progress.
“This is a great chance for them to get along,” says their mother, Melissa Haworth. “He listens to her and takes it so seriously. And she is just a hardcore teacher.”
Janata, the neuroscientist at UC Davis, says learning an instrument is a great way to keep the mind sharp.
“You're engaging circuits in the brain that are really at the core of how we learn various skills and behavior,” he said. “It helps with focus [and] being able to process things a little bit more quickly.”
Melissa says it’s helping Paige stay committed to the trumpet, too. With classes canceled at her high school, that means no rehearsals or pep rallies. And it’s unclear how a concert band can play together through distance learning.
So, Paige started losing interest in practicing, according to Melissa — until Charlie wanted to play.
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