THE NEW NORMAL: Music Paves the Way

Ally Richardson

The pandemic started right before the fourth quarter of my sophomore year. I remember it starting with a four-day weekend and my immediate relief at realizing that I wouldn’t have a Spanish test on Monday. Little did I know that a four-day weekend would turn into a permanent change for the rest of my high school career. I’m in choir and we were planning on having our assessment concert that coming Wednesday, I wonder if I would have done anything differently if I had realized that that Thursday, our last day of pre-pandemic school, was my last time singing with that group, as some of them were seniors and juniors that I would never see again. 


I didn’t see my friends at all during the first four months of the pandemic as everyone was trying to quarantine; in fact, I couldn’t go to the grocery store or any public place. My mom would be the one to go and get groceries. She was the only one that had contact with the outside world. It wasn’t until about the middle of July that my dad took me and I finally saw the effects of the pandemic on the general public. It was a new experience to see all the customers and employees wearing masks and the plastic shields that were on every cashier counter.


Before the pandemic, I had been an A/B student but, as school turned online I became increasingly depressed and my grades dropped.  During online school, I turned more towards social media for entertainment, and still spend way too much time on Instagram today. Due to my depression, I slept as much as I could during online classes and struggled to turn in any work even if the subject interested me. I slept during school, after school, and then I went to bed. Throughout the day I would feel like I was chained to my computer. I wanted to make food or play piano but I felt like I was trapped and stuck with all the mandatory participation activities teachers would have. I can’t count how many messages saying I “CUT” class were sent to my parents for me and my siblings. 


As a musician, the pandemic was hard, because while I still had choir class online I wasn’t able to sing or interact with others in my choir. All year we had to send in recordings of us doing songs which were tiring and took the fun out of singing. Besides making recordings for the choir I barely sang at all; I could barely play piano either. I was just too tired and unmotivated. I felt extremely disconnected from myself as a musician and was just going through the motions when I did have to do anything. Even so, the online choir remained a safe place for me as our new choir teacher was extremely supportive and conscious about mental health. Without her and a few others, I don’t think I would have been able to get through the pandemic.


Around the beginning of May, my parents made my little sister start going to school two days a week because of her extreme depression. I went too to support her. Going back in person was strange. All of my teachers were so cut off from those in person because they were behind plastic shields and mainly interacting with the computer. On average my classes had three or four kids in person with a couple of exceptions where I was the only one. Overall I liked going back in person and there weren’t that many kids there so the school was never excessively crowded like it is now. I still had to take my AP US History and AP Language and Composition tests online. It was very stressful and I was exhausted afterward. I ended the year by asking to leave my classes and going down to the choir room to help the choir teacher sort music or just play piano in a practice room. And that was the end of a blurry and faded junior year.


I spent the summer working as a lifeguard at my local pool. They were desperate for employees since they couldn’t bring in people from overseas, and that’s how a weakling like me was put in the position to save other people’s lives. In the beginning, I tried to wear a mask but it was too hot. All the patrons of the pool didn’t wear masks either, it’s like we were living in a little bubble where the pandemic didn’t exist. I somehow managed to not contract COVID-19 that summer and officially started my senior year that fall.


It was different being back again, but this time with the school at max capacity. All my friends were back and I even had classes with some of them too. I managed to maintain all my close friendships from before the pandemic, but unfortunately lost connection with a few. While I was hoping to have the structure again that I had lost during the pandemic, I was struggling with being able to bring my motivation and work level back to what it was before the pandemic.


Having choir in person again was the best thing to happen to me. I noticed some changes in my musicianship and my approach to learning music. Due to a lack of practice over the pandemic I had lost almost all of the breath support I had spent years working on. But at the end of the day that doesn’t matter as much when it’s been amazing getting to make music with others again and work on such a challenging repertoire. 


Despite missing the end of my sophomore and almost all of my junior year, I’m extremely grateful to have my senior year in its entirety. Something the past two graduating classes didn’t get the luxury of. I’ve learned so much this year and made so many new friends that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Overall the pandemic has taught me to have resilience and be more understanding and forgiving to myself and others.