By DAYNA UNG, Vandegrift Voice
The vibrant echo of her violin filled the room as her bow glided across each delicate string. She breathed in a calming breath as each note filled her ears with a soothing melody. With the placid music lulling her eyes to sleep, her mind drifted away, wondering about her grandparents and many others like them forced into isolation due to the pandemic.
Sophomore Karen Li has found a way to reach the elderly during COVID-19 through the power of her music. She created a club called Vandegrift Musicians where other students can send in videos of them playing an instrument or singing for the elderly at Longhorn Village and other organizations such as Travis County’s Brown Santa, Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, Central Texas Veterans Health Care System, and Baylor Scott & White Health.
“My grandparents live in Wuhan, which is where the virus started, and they had a major lockdown for a long time, and they really hated it,” Li said. “So, I guess I kind of experienced firsthand how the elderly were doing in lockdown so I thought that might be how other people are feeling in their nursing homes too.”
The vice president of the Vandegrift Musicians Club, sophomore Emily Wokoek, joined Li’s creative endeavor early on and has taken inspiration from this project.
“When this club came out, it was a big inspiration to actually start doing things with this gift that I am given, having learned the trumpet already, so I might as well do something with it,” Wokoek said.
As a musician, Li has been inspired by many people such as a YouTube channel called TwoSet Violin. Now, Li said she is able to learn what it’s like to be in a leadership position herself.
“Once I had the idea, I knew I would procrastinate on it, so the next day after I had the idea, I called Longhorn Village to see if they liked the idea, and then right after that, I formed the club,” Li said. “There’s a lot that goes into it like organizing everything and reaching out to organizations, and then getting feedback from members.”
Although this new club has been a way for both Li and Wokoek to grow, they both agree that their main reason for being a part of this club was because of their passion for music.
With a love for both this club and for music, Li said she has begun to think of ways they could expand the club. She is planning a karaoke and game night on Zoom for club members and in the future hopes to perform live for these places as well as one day have camps for kids to learn more about music.
Both girls also recognize that playing an instrument can be challenging, so Li offers some advice to other aspiring musicians.
“The work you put in at the beginning, it might seem like you’re going nowhere and you sound really bad, but it does build up and the more time you put into music, the better you’ll be,” Li said. “It’s definitely worth it to do that. Also, find inspiration in other musicians and realize that what you’re doing can make other people happy too.”
Li hopes to continue to make an impact by spreading Vandegrift Musicians Club music.
“With students, we just want to recruit as many members as possible and make people see what big of an impact everyone can have on someone else, like make their day better. We just mainly want to spread happiness and help others realize the power of music,” Li said.
Li and Wokoek said they encourage students to join their club and help make an impact on others. The club’s Instagram is @vandy.musicians and the Google Classroom code is fofqxdc.
“I think my favorite part was just seeing all the different people with their different instruments,” Wokoek said. “Like, I had no idea that this person played an instrument, and there’s guitarists and singers and piano players and then the traditional wind players, and it’s just, wow, I would’ve never known unless they put themselves out there.”
Wokoek said she loved seeing the different talents being showcased in their videos and applauds them for sharing.
“With music, you have to have a sense of vulnerability,” Wokoek said. “When you’re playing, you have to put a lot of emotion in to get a message across and you have to be really trusting of other people to see it as your take on the piece. Also, the people participating have the ability to give others confidence to participate as well and that seems like a community to me.”
In addition to the Vandegrift Voice, Dayna Ung, sophomore, is also part of Christian Youth Theatre and she loves to bake, play piano and read.