What's New? Navigating unusual circumstances as an Oberlin 2020 grad
May 22, 2020
Hannah Schoepe ’20
Hello my dear friends! In all honesty, I’ve been procrastinating writing this blog for a very long time. Generally, procrastination isn’t something I struggle with to this extent, but somehow I felt that I didn’t know what to tell you, or how to write what was on my mind.
There’s never a good time for a global pandemic, and COVID-19 has brought unique challenges for each and every one of us. For the Class of 2020, this has been a time of grieving and loss, a time of endings and new beginnings.
The thing is, none of our endings happened the way we envisioned and mentally prepared for them. Life’s curveballs remind us of how little we are in control of the world, and this seems like quite an enormous curveball at the moment. There’s no way we could have foreseen being the class that would celebrate graduation at home, or in my case, alone in my apartment. There’s no way we could have known that we would miss the live experience of our senior recitals, the ensemble projects we had planned, celebrating the senior concerto competition winners, dancing the night away at con prom, or seeing Tappan Square light up during senior week.
But of course, there is always a streak of sunshine somewhere, and I’ve found my fair share over the past few weeks.
The conversations I’ve been having over the phone, Zoom, or Skype have given me a great sense of connection and support. I’ve rediscovered the loving support and comfort of my family, friends, and neighbors. From talking to my parents every day, to talking more frequently than ever with my brother, to receiving spontaneous homemade snacks from my landlord, it’s been a time of rediscovering the pillars that help me stand. This also includes my wonderful best friend, my violin. We share everything, and they (I’ve decided they’re a gender-neutral instrument) have given me a sense of routine, goals, and normalcy during these strange times. Also, I’ve started running, which means I can currently run for 6 miles, which is something I never thought I’d write :).
When corona hit Oberlin, I watched shoppers stashing toilet paper away, and thought to myself, ‘I’m going to make sure I have enough bread flour.’ This was hands-down one of the best decisions I’ve made in a while because flour and yeast have been running low in most grocery stores. I’ve made so much bread, cakes, and other delicious food, it’s been a joy sniffing inside my apartment. Full disclosure, I have a rhubarb cake/pie/crumble concoction in the kitchen this very minute, fresh out of the oven. I told myself I will enjoy it after I finish blogging. Yes, incentives do work to remedy procrastination.
One of the best things I’ve done however, is teach. Where, you might ask? On Zoom in Mexico. Yes, you read that right. My wonderful friend and fellow Obie Christine Showalter is a quartet member at the University of Michigan, of a group that started a string festival in Oaxaca, Mexico. With violist Gwendolyn Xtané Matias-Ryan at the helm, Sa Oaxaca International String Festival had its debut season during the summer of 2019 with the support of a grant from the University of Michigan.
When corona started, many of the students were left without lessons, so Christine rallied her musical community to help provide lessons. The corresponding four weeks turned into a rewarding project for everyone involved. The teachers (many of which were Obies) met every Thursday morning to support each other and ask questions. Two out of the four weeks Gwendolyn asked a professor to join us, giving us tips and wisdom about navigating teaching with an online platform.
Every Thursday afternoon, we would have a big student/teacher conference with everyone from the festival, that would feature a general topic and a student Q&A. The questions and answers proved enriching for everyone (me included), and made the weeks feel filled with community and learning. Teaching during this time nourished my extroverted soul, making every day feel a little brighter.
The festival came to a close with a conference where everyone shared how they first began loving music and a virtual recital. Seeing the love for music-making shine through everyone’s stories and musicianship has been a tremendous highlight for me.
My studio teacher, David Bowlin, also went above and beyond to give us a sense of normalcy during our enrollment in Zoom University. We continued having studio class (a studio performance class), regular lessons, and even studio dinners. We would all bring a snack and keep each other company for a while during our dinners; sometimes Professor Bowlin's adorable dog Morrie would join, too. All pets were always welcome during any meetings. There were Zoom recitals, and we even had a final studio party. My senior recital was a recorded portfolio, predominantly with videos I needed for my final grad school application due the end of April, but I will be presenting a belated Zoom recital from the comfort of my home in July.
To be frank, my rhubarb concoction is calling, but I will be back soon with more. Over the next few days I hope to finish my memory series, and also to write a special farewell post to close my chapter as an Oberlin blogger.