Maryland Musician Holds Daily Concerts During Coronavirus Outbreak

25 March 2020

The spread of the new coronavirus has completely changed the daily routines of people around the world. Many are trying their best to find a "new normal" during a pandemic.

Musician Jodi Beder's "new normal" takes her to her home's front porch each afternoon. There, she sets up her music stand, sheet music for everything from Beethoven to the Beatles, and her cello -- a large stringed instrument that is held between the player's knees while the player sits.

Jodi Beder plays the cello from her front porch as neighbors gather to enjoy the music, in Mount Rainier, Maryland, March 20, 2020 (Ashley Thompson)
Jodi Beder plays the cello from her front porch as neighbors gather to enjoy the music, in Mount Rainier, Maryland, March 20, 2020 (Ashley Thompson)

At exactly 4 o'clock each day, Beder begins to play.

Neighbors soon surround Beder's home. They stay at least two meters from each other, smiling and greeting each other from a safe distance.

Beder, who is 69, is a professional cellist. She has played in orchestras, folk groups and even a rock band. She currently works with a non-profit group that plays music for patients who are nearing death.

She lives in Mount Rainier, Maryland, a small city just outside Washington, D.C. The city is home to a large number of musicians and artists.

As Americans are urged to stay at home and avoid public gatherings, Beder is hoping to use her musical skills to make this new way of life a little more joyful.

Live music shows are not currently possible in the United States and most other countries. Instead, famous musicians are offering live-streamed shows for their fans. John Legend, Pink, Bono and Yo-Yo Ma have all put on special "concerts" from their homes in recent days.

But, Beder hopes her live cello music offers her neighbors and other listeners something that they may be missing in the age of social distancing.

"When you play music in a space -- whether it's outdoor or indoors -- it includes the space, and it plays to the space. And so, since we're all having to be at a distance from each other, it's almost like you can create a bubble with the music, and everyone is joined in that space."

She adds, "It bridges the space and it bridges the trauma that we're all experiencing from being cut off from each other."

On a recent day, Beder begins her performance with Bach's Suite I in G Major. The sounds of singing birds and cars going by are part of her space.

Neighbors arrive on bicycle or on foot. Some stand across the street. People who live especially close to Beder stand outside their own homes and listen to the music. Even people passing by in cars roll down their windows and slow down for a short time.

Lara Payne, a writer and neighbor, came to hear Beder play with her two daughters, ages 6 and 10. Her younger daughter, Delphine, brought her (tin) whistle to play along with Beder for one song.

Payne said, "When we found out she was playing every day at 4, we said ‘we are going to make time for that.'"

Beder says she chooses a mix of music so that there is something everyone may connect with. On this day, she ends her show with the famous American folk song "This Land is Your Land."

She said, "Music touches memory a lot. You're playing to things that people know -- and they know them from a happier time. They know them deeply and they usually have communal associations."

"So," she said, "you're helping people connect with things that are from a good place."

I'm Ashley Thompson.

Ashley Thompson wrote this story. Hai Do was the editor.


Words in This Story

routine - n. a regular way of doing things in a particular order

pandemic - n. an occurrence in which a disease spreads very quickly and affects a large number of people over a wide area or throughout the world

porch - n. a structure attached to the entrance of a building that has a roof and that may or may not have walls

orchestra - n. a group of musicians who play usually classical music together and who are led by a conductor

trauma - n. a very difficult or unpleasant experience that causes someone to have mental or emotional problems usually for a long time

bubble - n. a tiny, round ball of air or gas inside a liquid

(tin) whistle - n. a small flute-like instrument