For CMC, the COVID-19 crisis hit early. Senior centers around San Francisco were the first to close their doors in early March and older adults were the first population recommended to socially distance themselves. With these closures the CMC Older Adult Choir Program, which serves nearly 400 older adults in senior centers throughout San Francisco, immediately transitioned to an online format, where choir faculty started making videos.
“We know that older adults are a group that is more likely to feel socially isolated, even without a health emergency in effect,” said Maria Cora, Older Adult Choir Program Coordinator “Our choir program alleviates some of this emotional burden for many of them. Completely shutting down these choirs was not an option. We wanted to provide a lifeline for them and keep the choir experience in the lives of our choir members, especially during a time when there’s so much uncertainty in the world.”
The Older Adult Choir Program staff and choir faculty responded by making Youtube videos with vocal warm-ups, stretching exercises, songs, and messages of hope. “The choir I attend occupies a big place in my life. Not having it has created a hole,” said Judith Turner who is a member of CMC Coro Solera at the Mission Neighborhood Center. “Turning on Youtube and seeing my beloved teachers has been wonderful and great. It makes a difference to see my teachers projecting something positive and very upbeat during this time.”
Another unanticipated benefit of the videos is that they provide professional quality practice recordings for choir members, a resource choir members didn’t have before. “When we return to meeting again, we won’t have missed a step,” said Turner. “My teachers are recording all the vocal parts on videos. It’s actually really helpful having these recordings to practice with.”
Though videos can’t provide in-person community, the videos help fill in the gap of the weekly choir routine that many members are missing. Seeing the supportive faces of their choir faculty provides much more than music. In the case of Nola and Maestro Curtis, who direct and accompany the CMC Western Addition Older Adult Choir, their choir rehearsal video includes video effects and uplifting messages like “Get up and Dance” and “Stay Healthy.” All the choir videos that faculty have made include candid moments, where the care that the faculty have for their choir members is palpable. At a time when the media is full of dire news, seeing a familiar face and practicing music is a silver lining.