A Collection of Inspiring Humans, #1
When Ruthy started the school year, she, like many of us, had no idea it would turn out this way. 2020 would be the year she would see one of her favourite artists in concert, she would perform with the Concert of Independent Schools Music Festival orchestra at Roy Thomson Hall, and in the summer, she would volunteer at a hospital. She was looking forward to so many wonderful things, and then, all of a sudden…nothing.
“I was really upset and angry when I slowly heard the news of my events getting cancelled and even school being closed. I didn’t know how to process it all and it felt like someone pressed pause on my life,” she wrote in her essay entitled “Without Music, Life would B-Flat”. “I thought it was a joke when my school, which has had 1 snow day in the past 15 years, would be closed until this pandemic was over.”
Scott Berinato of the Harvard Business Review wrote that the discomfort so many of us are feeling during this time is grief.
“There’s denial, which we say a lot of early on: This virus won’t affect us. There’s anger: You’re making me stay home and taking away my activities. There’s bargaining: Okay, if I social distance for two weeks everything will be better, right? There’s sadness: I don’t know when this will end. And finally there’s acceptance. This is happening; I have to figure out how to proceed.”
So, instead of drowning in a sea of Netflix and pity, she figured out how to proceed. Except, she did more than just that; she decided to do something good, something meaningful; she would use her talents for good by offering free virtual music lessons to people of all ages.
We sat down with her (virtually, of course) to ask her a bit about herself and how she turned that grief into something beautiful.
What made you want to start offering virtual music lessons?
When COVID-19 and social distancing first started, I mostly just sat at home all day watching Netflix, reading books, and occasionally practicing piano and violin, and after a while, I felt that I should be doing something more meaningful. Music has always been a big part of my life and something that I enjoyed a lot, and I have always wanted to share my passion for music with others. So I thought a lot about it and talked with my parents, and we came up with the idea of free virtual music lessons. Other people are also just at home probably doing nothing, so COVID-19 would be the perfect opportunity to teach them something new and give them a creative outlet.
What is your favourite virtual music lesson moment?
I teach both one-on-one lessons and group lessons with my mom’s colleagues’ kids. In the group lessons, I play the guitar while the kids sing and dance along. There was one time when we sang the song “Old MacDonald Had A Farm”, I would show them an animal stuffy and they would act like that animal. It was really cute and funny; they enjoyed it a lot. We also do group crafts sessions, and one lesson I was teaching them how to make a guitar out of materials at home like a shoebox. After the lesson, one dad sent me a photo of his daughter smiling happily while holding the guitar she had just made; I realized then how my small actions can really make a big difference in someone’s day during this difficult time.
What do you love about SCS?
My favourite thing about SCS is the many friendships I have made. I have become close friends with not only many people in my own grade, but also girls in younger and older grades. SCS provides this sense of close community that makes us comfortable to interact with each other. Since I arrived in Grade 3, I have made friendships that will definitely last longer than my time here at SCS; many people here are like family to me.
What is your favourite musical memory at SCS?
When my friends and I started a “band” last year and performed together for the first time at recital night. I played the piano, Sam and Charlotte played the guitar, Naledi played the drums, and we all sang. We performed the song “Trust Fund Baby” by the boy band Why Don’t We, who we were obsessed with at the time. It was challenging because we had to arrange the music ourselves and figure out how to play it so it would sound best together, but it was really fun and definitely worth the many early morning practices before school.
What do you miss most about SCS?
There has not been one day at SCS that has gone by without me having a good laugh with all my classmates. I miss the random funny comments in the middle of class and I miss sitting in the halls and talking and laughing with my friends. Even though we can still see each other on Google Meet, I can’t give my friend a hug or steal my friend’s food in the lunchroom.
What’s on your playlist right now?
Currently, I am always listening to the song “Six Feet Apart” by Alec Benjamin because it’s a song about the challenges of quarantine, which is very relatable now, and I’m learning it on the guitar. I mostly listen to artists and not specific songs, and I currently love Lewis Capaldi, Niall Horan, Ed Sheeran, Shawn Mendes, Alec Benjamin, and Louis Tomlinson. I also love the soundtrack of the Korean drama on Netflix called Crash Landing On You (which was really good and I highly recommend).
If you could have a dinner party with three musicians, who would they be?
If I could have a dinner party with 3 musicians, I would choose Shawn Mendes, Ed Sheeran and if I could choose someone who is dead, then Beethoven. Shawn Mendes is my favourite singer and he has inspired me in a lot of ways. First, he is from Ontario which makes me realize how his life was probably just like mine before he became famous. He is also a talented songwriter and the tunes of his songs are very catchy and the lyrics are meaningful. He has songs for me to listen to in every mood I’m in. “Never Be Alone” and “Hold On” are always my go-to songs when I’m feeling sad. I was also at his concert at Rogers Centre and it was one of the best nights of my life. I would choose Ed Sheeran to be another guest at my dinner party because he is a crazy talented singer and I admire his personality. I can never get enough of his slow guitar songs and even though he’s probably one of the most famous singers in the world, he is a very grounded and humble person. I love learning/playing Shawn Mendes and Ed Sheeran songs on the guitar and piano. Lastly, I would choose Beethoven because he is an insanely talented composer and even today, all his music is very popular. He is my favourite classical music composer and I love playing his music because it is so expressive. I really want to ask him how he had the mind and creativity to write so much good music.
What is something that SCS has taught you that you’ll keep with you forever?
SCS has taught me the importance of community and helping each other. It is not only supporting each other in the tight-knit community here at SCS, but also helping and volunteering in the larger community and beyond. I have learnt that even when volunteering in the larger community, it all starts from one small action and helping one person. From volunteering at St. Clement’s Church, caroling in the Junior School, the Horizons program at Stanley Public School, and being part of the Community Committee, I have truly been able to experience the joy that comes from one small action and how it can have a bigger effect than what you had imagined. I have also been on the receiving end of the support and kindness from people at SCS and I cannot express enough gratitude for those people who went out of their way to support me and care for me.