Got a minute? I’ve got a question for you.
Here in the waning/not so waning weeks of this pandemic, that just won’t seem to go away, I’m thinking about the various upsides that might have occurred for you in that VERRRRRY obvious downside of the limbo we’ve all been living through. (And yes, we can choose not to discuss the many reasons for that dilemma in this particular moment!)
I’m wondering if your time in Pandematory allowed you to reconnect with any friends with whom you were out of touch or simply just didn’t see often enough? Maybe you wrote a note to someone whose page or name popped up on your screen on any random day and experienced the joy of having a new stream of conversation emerge? Or maybe you unexpectedly found some long-lost friend or comrade on a social media get-together and shared a few exceptional pandemic Zooms catching up? Did they blossom into something new and deeper that you are now keeping alive? Well, as it turns out, all those things were true for me.
And, by the way, it’s fine if you just hunkered down, binge watched some time-wasting series of shows and got through every day as best you could! It’s a no shame zone here.
All through this hard time I managed to, with some degree of effort, desire, encouragement, and a fair amount of dumb luck, get blessed with several friendship reconnections from unexpected sources. We got busy talking and helped each other with everyday struggles, recipes, swapped songs and wrote music, started radio shows, shared information about technology, encouraged each other through the tough news of life and in those sullen moments worked to lift each other’s spirits. As a result, I’ve come out of the void with a new appreciation of friendships, old and new.
One of the most unexpected connections was with my friend Alastair Moock, who I met years ago when I was visiting the home of dear friends and he came home from college as the boyfriend of their daughter Jane. Suddenly there was a new brash and creatively gifted musical type in the mix who would also become a professional musician. I’ve had the pleasure of watching as Alastair and Jane got married and began building their lives and careers and struggling through the process of life together and the challenges of raising a family. He and I would periodically exchange notes, calls and news as musicians and activists who found themselves traveling in connected but different circles, so our actual physical connections were rare. He’s a fine award-winning songwriter now who takes on many of the same issues as I do in life and career focus. Alastair does so in remarkably creative ways that add to the mix of our profession quite admirably and we have appreciated each other’s work from distance.
But then COVID happened and without warning, I got an email from him in June 2020 that broke a few years of radio silence. That email opened the door to our having some conversations around sussing out the impact of the raging national events shaking our nation and the world during the pandemic. We took a deep dive into the burning issues of race and injustice that were triggered by the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and too many others as well the various statue and voting rights protests across the nation.
We also engaged on a topic close to our career paths: the longstanding lack of recognition, discrimination and lack of acknowledgment that continues to frustrate artists of color in the recording and performing industry. (The Recording Academy had recently announced yet another slate of all-white nominees in the Children’s Music category and Alastair was one of them. This led to some soul searching and some deep conversations between he and others in a group called the “Family Music Forward” (FamilyMusicForward.org) that led to some bold action.
As a result of those talks, Alastair and a few other White artists chose to act by turning back their nominations and joined forces with Black artists they respected to start a course of actions for change. Meanwhile, he and I began to explore a variety of actions we could do related to music’s role in creating more awareness, diversity and equity as a way forward.
Our conversations led to a collaboration we now call “Race and Song: A Musical Conversation!” This song and story-based exploration of history and current events, one we have both championed for years through the powerful tool of music and story, has allowed us to discuss the complicated issues of race, class, gender and intersectionality, at first in schools with students and staff and then branching into community forums, has turned out to be a real gift for focusing the energy and frustration that was present as the administration in office pile on the prejudice and hate.
The resulting show has evolved into a concert offering of great depth and meaning. One of the first to engage with us was the Charles River School’s Head of Performing Arts Mica Moellering who wrote to say, “We brought ‘Race and Song’ to our entire school community, and it was a fantastic success. Reggie and Alastair were incredibly kind, open, and generous, and their beautiful video provided a jumping-off point for important and timely conversations.”
It’s clear that without the challenges of the last two years, the horrific events and spirit deadening onslaught of aggressions, coupled with the downtime to reflect, alone and together, this inspired collaboration would probably never have occurred. With the difference in our ages, life narratives and perspectives, I find this partnership with Alastair to be a marvelous vehicle for learning and a great complement to the work I have been doing the last 6 years with my friend Greg Greenway in our presentation, “Deeper Than The Skin.” This program takes on many similar issues but seen through a different set of lenses. Inspired and energized by the work, Alastair and I are setting our sights on continuing to offer and grow this phenomenal program with schools, communities of faith and societal concern and with people taking on the task of reclaiming and redefining our relationships, building a new way forward.
I hope that the friendships and connections you have rekindled during the pandemic have helped you to find some insight into making what WAS positive even better. Or perhaps, it has given you and your friends more courage to shed ideas or actions that needed to be left behind. And maybe you have also taken the chance to have conversations about justice, injustice, and to take action with members of your families in ways that are making good changes in the world. If you feel like need a push or a hand, check us out at:https://moockmusic.com/race-and-song-a-musical-conversation/.
We are all in need of more willing hands on the freedom plow.
In peace, action, and song,