Music challenge aims to build harmony, community from a distance

Contact: Erin Flynn

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Thousands of miles apart, a Western Michigan University faculty member and alumnus hope to bring people together—through music. Dr. David Loberg Code, associate director and coordinator of graduate studies in the School of Music, and Blake Morgan, now a member of the London-based professional ensemble VOCES8, collaborated remotely to sing the University's alma mater.

"Although we cannot do it (in person), I wanted to show that we can still make music together," Code says.

He is now challenging the WMU community to join in, using the hashtag #wmuMakesMusic. He provides instructions online for downloading the Acapella app and recording music virtually with multiple people. The challenge gives the School of Music community a creative outlet to stay connected and engaged with one another, while also allowing the public to check out their talent by searching the hashtag.

"It is a good example of experiential learning with new technologies, but more importantly, I hope it will be uplifting for our community to share videos with each other engaged in what we all love to do—make music."

Kennedy Dixon, a senior majoring in viola performance as well as composition, took up the challenge with her roommates Gabby Lindhurst and Becca Spurbeck, who are also music majors.

Video of Connecting through music

Kennedy Dixon turns to music as an escape in uncertain times.

"Taking part in this challenge was important to me to show that music can help distract us for a moment from the pain that is happening in the world during this hard time, and remind fellow Broncos that music heals," she says. "I'm a social butterfly by nature, so this time has been really difficult for me. But, I'm thankful for the technology that we have, making connecting with family and friends so easy!"

Staying Connected

Living with fellow music students, Dixon has been able to stem the loneliness that comes with self-isolation.

"We're all coping well and making sure that we are respecting each other's spaces during online classes and virtual sessions."

The transition to distance learning is challenging for music students who are used to collaborating in groups. But the skills Dixon has developed through the School of Music have also given way to new opportunities—both academic and creative.

Kennedy Dixon plays viola in her apartment.

"When words fail, music speaks. As both a performance and composition major, I'm grateful for the ability to be able to express my feelings through both platforms when I'm at a loss for words," says Dixon, who grew up in Grand Rapids. "I've been seeing so many collaborative projects in the past couple of weeks from organizations throughout Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Chicago and beyond. So much creativity has come from this."

Code hopes the #wmuMakesMusic challenge will spur even more creativity within the WMU community. Dixon says if anyone can do it, Broncos can.

"I’m so proud to call myself a Bronco, especially in a time like this," Dixon says. "I’ve never felt more of a sense of community and understanding from those around me, and there’s just so much support being spread."

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.