Daily COVID-19 Update: March 28, 2020

Dear Bereans,

This is the update for Saturday, March 28, 2020.

First, a little humor…

Many churches are holding their services virtually at this point, following the guidance, in Kentucky at least, of our Governor.   This is a good thing, of course, but streaming platforms have many features, which can trip up the unwary as happened to the priest in this clip.

A reminder to students about the importance of social distancing

A number of folks on campus have reported seeing groups of students interacting with one another.  That’s a great thing, of course, unless in doing so, you are forgetting about the six feet of separation advice (or two meters, if you prefer metric.)  That advice is important because getting just one microscopic (really nanoscopic) particle on your face or hands is enough for you to get COVID-19 and that little beast will then turn the cells of your body into little factories making more of them, so that you can sneeze them out to infect someone else.  (That can happen even if you don’t get that sick yourself from the virus.)  So, try your best to remember to social-distance when walking together on the sidewalks or interacting in groups.

What is open and what is closed

A recipient of the daily updates asked for a summary of what on campus is open and what is closed.  It’s actually hard to think of anything that is open on campus, aside from three residence halls, Woods-Penniman, and the Alumni building.   (All of those are on key-card access only.)

  • Most campus buildings are still accessible for those who normally have access to them, so that faculty and staff are able to retrieve items from their offices, etc.
  • Seabury is closed to non-occupants.
  • The Library is open digitally, and if anyone needs to check out a physical item, that is done via an email request to Calvin Gross.
  • The Help Desk is also open only digitally. You phone them for assistance (859-985-3343). Your call will go right to voicemail and that message then is forwarded to staff who will assist you.  Any campus community member needing in-person assistance can email Help_Desk@berea.edu.
  • Even the Forest trails are closed, alas.

A Perspective on the COVID-19 Virus from a member of the Music faculty

By Liza DiSavino, Assistant Professor of Music and Music Education and Director of the Folk Roots Ensemble


As a musician,  music educator, and second generation daughter of an Italian immigrant, I have been watching what has been happening in Northern Italy with a mixture of emotions – horror at the overwhelming loss of human life and the incredible crush thrown upon health care workers, sorrow at the terrible blow to Italy’s beautiful and historic cultural center, terror at the idea that within a week we will be seeing the same kind of catastrophe here (assured now, since the country is not going on lockdown), and perhaps most of all, pride and admiration for the spirit of the Italian “balcony singers” and renewed wonder at the power of music to sustain and connect people through even the most heartbreaking of times.

We’ve all seen the videos of the “balcony singers:” entire neighborhoods singing together from their balconies, driving terror away by joining voices, armed with nothing but folk songs.  Ah, but in Italy, a folk song is not just a folk song.  These songs are bearers of ancient local memory.  In a country which did not unite until the 1860’s, that means the songs vary widely from locale to locale.   They tell different stories and recall different histories.  In Sciena, the balcony singers sang the city’s anthem “Canto della Verbena,” a song originally sung by troops in the middle ages, which contains the line, “Viva la nostra Sciena” (“Long live our Siena!”).  Who does this in the middle of a plague?  People in a country with a long memory.  They have seen it before.  They know how to get through.  These singers have made me appreciate anew how powerful music is, how it can join people together in community, hope, and identity.

In Italy, music serves as a kind of glue.  People everywhere who make music together understand that glue.  It is one of the things that brings students back to our ensembles year after year.  Making music with others is a unique kind of communication, and even of communion.  It is one of the most intimate and honest public acts, next to dancing, in which we can engage.  It takes us out of ourselves, connects us to each other and to some larger nameless reality, and breaks the bonds of time.  Music stems from the most primal of human instincts:  the need to express, the need to create, and the need to connect with others.  The necessity of fulfilling these needs is one reason why Facebook is full of videos of people videocasting themselves playing from their own living room:  music isn’t complete until it is shared.  Till then, it may be beautiful, but it’s like talking to yourself.   It’s the communion between performers and listeners that makes the cycle whole.

We don’t do much communal singing from balconies in America; we are a more diverse nation than Italy, and so music doesn’t automatically bind us with the same kind of cultural glue.  In fact, musical variety is seen by some as evidence of irreconcilable differences.  But music can indeed join us together here if we are open to it and try to understand it, even if some musics  seems different to us.  Whether conjunto, Appalachian, rap, classical, folk, gospel Native American, Middle Eastern, jazz, rock, whatever style, music can join us together.  But we have to be willing to recognize that while not each kind of music may speak to us individually, each  style does have meaning for someone else, and that meaning is to be understood and respected.  The great New England fiddler George Wilson carries a card in his case that bears a quote from his father:  “Let me never scorn any kind of music, for that music bears the soul of the person who made it.”  When we are all willing to listen and to try to understand that different musical tongues are all just different dimensions of the human experience, and that being human gives us the birthright and the responsibility to honor them all, it will be a start toward honoring and understanding each other.

So listen. Just listen.  To anything.  To everything.  We are about to go through an experience as a nation unlike anything most of us have ever encountered. We will need to engage in that deep listening, deep connection, deep patience, and deep compassion that music fosters to get us all through.

If we do, we Americans will be able to sing from our own balconies, together.

Viva la nostra Berea, y’all.

I may not have enough new information to warrant a Daily Update tomorrow.  I hope everyone has a very nice weekend.

Together still and forever,
Lyle Roelofs, President