Melina Selverston Scher: Keep on Singing

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It wasn’t easy, but Melina Selverston Scher and her band found a way to make music and keep on singing, pandemic style.

Experts tell us that the coronavirus can be transmitted by coughing, sneezing, and wait for it singing.

That is bad news for a singer like me.

To me, the coronavirus feels like a tidal wave in slow motion. It just keeps crashing and we don’t know what life will be like when it’s done. Who knows when I’ll get to meet my new baby niece, or pay my respects to a loved one who passed. Live music? That’s just a dream some of us had. Bars and other music venues are closed, many for good.

A few weeks ago, desperate to play, I suggested my band try rehearsing outside. We found a quiet corner of Golden Gate Park where we could social distance properly. With the first "thwack" from the upright bass I felt a bright surge of hope one of those moments when the sun shines from behind the coastal cypress tree. People perked up as they strolled by, smiling at us from behind their masks.

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When it came time for me to sing, the musicians turned to me expectantly, but I froze. I couldn’t sing with a mask on.

We were 6 feet apart, and wind disperses tiny droplets, but singing creates a lot of droplets. Especially when there is no microphone. Especially when my husband rocks a steel guitar and I have to sing pretty loud to be heard over it. It didn’t feel right. The guitarist as guitarists do — took another solo.

Meanwhile I rummaged around my gig bag and found exactly what I needed: A paper hand fan I use to keep cool under stage lights. When my turn came back around I dropped my mask, whipped the fan open in front of my face, and let my voice soar.

Live music brings joy. Adults point the instruments out to children. Toddlers shyly toss dollar bills into the ukulele case. Friends spread picnic blankets on the grass. Couples dance on the sidewalk. And me? I fan the droplets away and keep on singing.

With a Perspective, this is Melina Selverston Scher.

Melina Selverston Scher is an environmental advocate in San Francisco and the front person for the world’s first industrial ragtime band.