By Alec Stimac ’23 (he/him)

Alec and guitarist. Image courtesy of Alec Stimac ’23

Scratch.

Set.

Play.

Repeat.

My head was constantly spinning. It was spinning almost as much as my record player was, just round and round and round with no skips — it just kept spinning. It was an excruciating migraine. Quarantine was a time of reflection and anxiety-filled nights for many around the world, including me. It was the first time in my life that everything just paused, but one thing didn’t, and that was the music that filled my life. Every day, I would put music on, sometimes for hours as I did my work or simply was just sitting outside and taking in the sun. It was those Spotify playlists I had on repeat, the CDs sitting in my car, and the inviting piano in my house ready to play that helped me feel like myself again. I could express everything I felt in those moments. I saw glimpses of myself return to “normal.”

Music is the way to the soul. I never feel more alive than when I am listening to a song that fits the mood: driving down the backroads while the sun is setting, staring at the ceiling contemplating thoughtless thoughts, and even dancing the night away at pre-COVID parties. Music surrounded us. It not only brought us closer together, but it also taught us valuable lessons. Now more than ever, music is a way to encourage and facilitate empathy and camaraderie on our campus and out in the streets. It shows every day. Just close your eyes and hear what is around you; you would be surprised how eye-opening, coincidentally, it is.

I was walking the 4th Sentelle Hallway back to my room a few days ago and noticed my neighbor, Andrew Pitts ‘22, who I never really had a good chance to talk to, playing guitar. I stopped by and started chatting with him for a little while. It was nice knowing that music is a constant way to meet new people and hear their experiences. Andrew told me that playing guitar is one of his biggest destressors. “It helps me relax and forget about things,” he said. During his first couple weeks back at work-study this semester, he focused on music-centered conversations — talking about different artists and discovering new genres — which he may not have had the chance to mention if not for music. Since music is deeply personal and unique, it can not only help promote conversations, but also take friendships to a more substantial level. 

“A lot of the world around us is composed of music. Humans are made to express themselves in other ways than just their words. Music allows that expression. It is physical but also emotional at the same time. That is what makes it powerful to me. It is ingrained in human nature and nature itself. It transcends normal conversation,” Andrew powerfully stated. I couldn’t agree more.

In comparison, Julia Mahoney ‘23 has been singing most of her life, offering a lot of parallels to Andrew’s understanding of music. She has been in her church choir since the third grade, she used to sing to her grandparents as a kid, and she is now in Chorale here at Davidson. Over quarantine, she learned guitar, which became an escape from the realities of the news and COVID — a new way to unwind. Picking up an instrument gave her agency and grace. It gave her a new voice.

Julia said, “[Music] is the universal language. Even if you don’t understand what people are saying, you understand how it makes you feel. Through music we are able to feel a sense of camaraderie and properly convey how [we’re]e feeling. It allows other people to have empathy to understand how I am feeling.”

Nick Havill ‘23 started writing songs because it was an emotional outlet. I can heavily relate to that. It was always personal for him, but he knew songs were also “meant to be heard and connect people.” Especially right now, when he shares his music, he wants to get those feelings out there and build bridges between people. While it may not look the same for him, or anyone else, music is still a vital part of his identity and how he continues to find himself during these times.

In the end, we are all connected through the music we create and listen to. It is always surrounding us, ready for us to see one another. I will always know that. 

Music intertwines with the strains in my brain,

Curling around and untangling the nerve and anguish of those chains,

That have held me back during a time the world seems lost,

With the lives of many being held back at a dire cost.

Music elevated my friends and I off our feet

It allowed me to breathe.

I could finally feel the air and just look out and see,

All those around me,

Who raised me up and let me be free.

We bridge the gap of social distance

Through sounds of nature within our existence.

We are human and need each other

With music being the guide to understand one another,

To reach resilience and fight with resistance.

Music can continue to blast,

As it makes memories for the future and restores the past.

Here is a playlist of some songs that got us through this time: Empathy Playlist. I hope these songs can bring you senses of joy and reflection. 

PS: I made a playlist with song recommendations from my interviewees and myself!