The upside to isolation can be sharing the gift of music.
So says one of more than 1,000 musicians posting on The Quarantine Sessions, a new online Facebook group created by Sarnia guitar player Kevin Churchill.
“The big rat race in our world is shut down so people are naturally dialing into their artistic side,” says Rod Medwid, of the local band Rodney James and the Riot.
“I can guarantee you half the people enjoying Quarantine Sessions would have been too busy to listen before.”
The online forum launched March 22 had 2,000 members in three days. Membership grew about 1,000 a day and surpassed 10,000 by last Friday, Churchill said.
“It’s crazy. We’re hearing from people who, in my opinion, should have a record deal, they’re that good,” he said. “We’re also hearing from musicians just starting out and finding an audience for the first time.”
An estimated 80% of the posts are from local musicians while the rest are from every province in Canada and as far away as the UK and Europe.
Medwid is a well-known songwriter and performer who was forced to cancel a couple solo Sarnia gigs at Paddy’s and the Refined Fool because of the pandemic.
When invited to join Quarantine Sessions, he began producing live at his home studio and has posted a number of covers and original tunes.
“There can be no expectations of sound (quality) right now, and that’s OK,” said Medwid. “The intention is to make people feel better, to feel connected, through music.”
Churchill said listening to Medwid on Quarantine Sessions was a great discovery.
“He’s really embracing it and is very, very talented,” he said. “I can’t wait to go out when this is all done and see him perform.”
Quarantine Sessions is also a fantastic way for an extroverted musician like Sarnia’s Julie Coulombe to connect with others.
“I am a people person and it’s tough for me not being able to be around people,” said Coulombe, who took up guitar four years ago and was hosting regular open mic events before the pandemic.
“We are all built to be with others. We need human interaction. For now, Quarantine Sessions is working beautifully,” she said.
Coulombe has joined other Facebook groups as well, including the Ultimate Online Nova Scotia Kitchen Party.
“I’m already looking forward to jamming with people I am meeting online,” she said. “This is a new and interesting way to stay stimulated.”
Churchill said he is “absolutely astonished” by the popularity of Quarantine Sessions.
It started out as a single recording he posted online. His brother-in-law James Miller is also a musician and did the same.
“James suggested I start an online group and I thought maybe since everyone’s gigs have dried up, a few buddies would like to post, then that would be it.”
Soon hundreds of solo acts, family efforts, mother/daughter combos and bands posted everything from their favourite covers to coronavirus-inspired originals.
“I saw (long-time Sarnia artist) Jim Chevalier post a live stream and later comment on a young person’s song after they mustered up the courage to try to find their voice,” said Churchill.
“Jim offered such encouragement. That positive feedback is so valuable,” he said. “I feel that we’re really filling a void.”
Churchill’s Facebook group is The Quarantine Sessions – Connecting Through Music.