We all miss seeing our friends, hearing their laughter in our ears, and feeling the warmth of a friendly hug. As a musician, I miss the rush of a live performance, the energy of my colleagues on stage, and the gift of playing for an audience. These are things that feed me and remind me that I’m part of something bigger than myself. For the first time in my life, I am acutely aware of their sudden and prolonged absence.

Through the struggles of this bizarre time, there’s something crucial to remember: Being challenged builds our capacity for empathy, and empathy makes us better humans. And of course — what do we share through art, if not our humanity?

Times of challenge can bring fear and uncertainty — especially when circumstances are out of our control. These feelings may be uncomfortable, but they allow us an opportunity to grow. We are called to set aside judgement, intolerance, and cynicism, and instead practice love, patience, and thoughtfulness — starting first with ourselves. Each of us will react to these challenges differently, and through the process we will learn a lot about who we are. Learning builds understanding, and understanding builds empathy.

To deeply connect through art, empathy is crucial. It influences what we share and how fully we are able to reach ourselves and others. As we build empathy, we gain a more comprehensive and loving perspective toward humanity and a greater ability to reflect this in our art. This results in music that truly makes people feel seen, represented, challenged, and moved — music with the power to create history, push the direction of culture, or provide a transformative experience for a room full of people. Each is equally important. Each perpetuates human connection.

As we navigate through the effects COVID-19 has on our lives and careers, we’re learning what it feels like to lose a part of what we love. Daily routines have been shaken, leaving us to consider which of these routines will be worth returning to. We have had time and space to ask questions, evaluate, slow down, and imagine what our future could and should look like. These experiences require us to dig deep into the fabric of our being and be honest about what we see. This isn’t always easy, but it beckons us to a greater emotional depth than we’ve known before. 

On the other side of this challenging time, we will make music together again. We will see each other face-to-face, talk together, laugh together, and hug one another. We will take the fear and uncertainty we’ve experienced and use them to dig deeper — emerging with greater empathy, more meaningful sharing, and a re-invigorated love for what we do. This unique and unprecedented time will give rise to unique and unprecedented art. These are the thoughts that keep me pushing.