A Musical Quarantine

Elizabeth Alton

Ava, Jaden, and Lee have been able to practice together a few times in person at Ava’s house. ((Photo Courtesy of Jaden Botte))

Music has always brought people together. Human culture is uniquely distinguished by the presence of an eloquent language like music, capable of making a political statement, bringing people together, and evoking emotions. Back in March while Italy soared to the top of COVID infections lists, videos of Italians in quarantine playing instruments and singing from their balconies were a clear example of human resilience despite the pandemic raging outside.

Zoom calls and social distancing were a clear trademark 2020, and as of now the world looks poised to stay that way in 2021. But despite the isolation, a group of juniors at WESS have found a way to embrace the beat and bond over quarantine. Ava Napach, Lee Kreshtool, and Jaden Botte have been learning instruments together since the start of last summer. Ava is learning the guitar, Jaden is learning the drums, and Lee is learning the bass.

Even though the idea of starting a band and learning instruments together had been on their minds for a while, it was during quarantine that their plans finally started to come into fruition.

While they had taken some music lessons in the past, those experiences felt like a far cry from learning as a group these past few months. Ava played guitar for a while before picking it up again more recently, Jaden also played guitar before picking up the drums more recently. Lee used to take cello lessons, but cites her experience with the cello as very different to her current experience learning the bass.

“Cello was very different for me because I didn’t really enjoy it, it wasn’t something that I wanted to do everyday,” Lee said. “I would dread practicing and stuff, and I also had a teacher so that might have added to it, like I just didn’t want to have this scheduled time where I had to do something. With the bass I want to practice everyday, and I’m excited to learn.”

Though Ava, Lee, and Jaden certainly have grown talent in their own right, all three of them have gained inspiration and help from their musical families. Most of Ava and Jaden’s families play the guitar, and Lee’s Mom’s boyfriend is a member of Grammy winning band Steely Dan.

“My Dad has been playing the mandolin since he was a little boy, and he’s continued to play into his adult years which I’ve always admired,” Lee said. “Another musical person in my family is my Mom’s boyfriend who I’ve known basically my whole life. He’s a musician and since we’re in quarantine he’s set up a recording studio in our living room, so it’s pretty cool to see the process of recording and making music.”

When it comes down to it, learning instruments have provided the group with a chance to bond over their love of music during quarantine. That said, the unusual circumstances of learning during a pandemic have definitely resulted in some unprecedented obstacles. The group meets remotely to compile a list of songs to learn on each of their instruments. Then they learned how to play each piece on their instruments independently before coming together to play the songs they chose as a group.

As they become more proficient in their instruments the Ava, Lee, and Jaden would like to start making their own music. But at its core, this activity is about coming together over a hobby during the undeniably turbulent times that we’re living in.

“[Music] definitely takes my mind off of what’s going on right now, I feel like that is for a lot of people too, so it’s nice to kind of connect over that,” Botte said.

“I feel like we’ve been really lucky and getting to have something like this that we’ve discovered during this time,” Ava added. “I think this has been another fun activity that we’ve all found we can bond over together, and it’s nice at this time where there are so many horrible things kind of going on.”

While they have learned more about their instruments, they have gained a deeper apparition for music in general. For instance Lee has seen her music taste expand from mostly including rap to bands and 80s and 90s rock.

“I’d say I definitely listen to like every part of a song now, like before I couldn’t even hear the base in some songs, but now my ear to music has strengthened a lot, so I appreciate the instruments in each song… and I can hear so many different levels of all the different parts,” Lee said.

If you’re looking to learn an instrument over quarantine they would suggest practicing and making sure you keep the activity as something you really enjoy.

“I would say maybe don’t think about it in a competitive way, like ‘I need to be this good’ or looking at famous people, you don’t need to be like them, you just need to be yourself,” Lee said. “Don’t stress about finding time or a schedule, having fun with it is more important, so just enjoy wanting to play an instrument.”