At a time when there are many reasons to express negativity, the Yale School of Music community found a way to instead show gratitude to those fighting on the front lines of the pandemic.
The Postcards from Confinement project, which began in May, offers faculty, students and alumni the opportunity to record a musical performance for those in quarantine or the medical field. The “postcards” are also publicly accessible on the School of Music’s YouTube channel. Each performer made their postcard unique.
“As a New Yorker living at home during the final months of the school year, unquestionably the city’s most deadly period of the pandemic, I knew how much gestures like these postcards would mean to people who had been surrounded by suffering and destabilizing uncertainty,” said pianist Llewellyn Sanchez-Werner MUS ’20. “It was a personal statement: ‘from my heart to yours.’”
Dean Robert Blocker and professor Benjamin Verdery designed the project. In an email, the School of Music encouraged members of the community to participate.
Yale musicians chose pieces to perform with special intention. Violinist Kate Arndt MUS ’19 ’20 ’26 dedicated J.S. Bach’s “Violin Sonata No. 3 in C Major Mov. 3” to healthcare workers — specifically her aunt, who is a nurse. She said the piece’s calming mood made it a perfect choice for grounding listeners’ emotions.
“It’s a really meditative piece,” Arndt said. “I think Bach is healing in some way. I chose this piece because I thought other people could also feel the connection to that meditative state.”
Pianist Chuang-Chuang Fang MUS ’20 and Sanchez-Werner also dedicated their postcards to healthcare workers. “My uncle works as a cardiologist in Illinois, and I heard many terrifying stories from him during the pandemic,” Fang said. “Therefore, I decided to make a postcard and dedicate it to all the medical workers who were in the fight against the virus.”
Sanchez-Werner’s selection — Robert Schumann’s “Widmung: Liebeslied” — translates to “Dedication: Love Song.”
“When I played it for the postcard, I thought of it as a dedication to the brave, selfless medical workers saving lives on the front lines, and as a song of love to the families of those [who lost lives] from this terrible pandemic,” Sanchez-Werner said. “It was also meant to honor my fellow graduates who had to celebrate from confinement.”
This project is an example of how musical performance groups, including those at the School of Music, are adapting to reach audiences at a time with no live concerts.
“There have been many successful and creative online initiatives and events that aim to bring performers and listeners together during this period,” said Aaron Jay Kernis MUS ’83, professor of composition at the School of Music whose postcard featured an original composition titled “Elegy (for those we lost).” “A lot of artists of all sorts have, as a continuation of their creative and expressive work, found ways to bring their need to create and share through whatever medium possible to their audience and to the world.”
Fang mentioned that the project is one of the best ways for musicians to share music these days. Recorded performances are of higher quality than live broadcasts and can reach people in any time zone.
Sanchez-Werner echoed Fang, noting that the project reaches international audiences while also broadening the school’s collegiality with the New Haven community.
“In times of crisis, I believe artists have a responsibility to use their abilities and platforms to foster unity and raise morale,” Sanchez-Werner said. “Our turbulent situation has caused artists to blossom imaginatively in many ways not previously used for reaching audiences.”