Finding Music in Crisis

While quarantined at home these past several weeks, my fifteen-year old daughter taught herself to play the ukulele.  She hadn’t planned to learn a new instrument this spring.  Honestly, it was the furthest thing from her mind.  She had planned to be spending most of the spring playing softball, starting at catcher for her varsity softball team.  She had planned to be immersed in busy school days and preparing for exams.  She had planned to be goofing around with her friends, evenings filled with sleepovers and ice cream shops.  But as we all know, this spring hasn’t gone as planned.

So, she picked up the ukulele.

Apparently she’d had a nagging interest in learning to play for quite a while.  One of those projects to start “whenever there is free time”.  Well… there never was free time.  In the fifteen years that she has walked the Earth, she had never seen a time where life slowed down.  That’s just not how life works.  Until now.  This pandemic came out of nowhere and has changed everything.  Suddenly, the impact of this global crisis has stopped the world from spinning.  Without warning, life as we know it just stopped and one side effect is that we all have a lot more time on our hands.  Time that we didn’t expect to have, but are now able to invest.  Reacting or acting.  Learning the ukulele.

This in no way minimizes the tragic impact that the coronavirus has had.  The loss of life, loss of employment, and loss of emotional support continues to send shockwaves that will impact our world for years to come.  And the loss of sports, loss of school, and loss of socializing are very real as well, and have led to additional fear, sadness, and grieving.  None of us have a choice as to being impacted by this crisis.  But we all have a choice as to how we respond.  And she chose to invest in learning, growing, and playing.  How will we all respond?

I once worked for a leader who frequently said to “Never waste a good crisis.”  That is not to say that we should minimize the importance of that crisis, but rather to use it as a chance to initiate needed and lasting change.  In this crisis, our team at Upstream has been forced to largely reinvent the way we work through our creative process.  We have been extremely fortunate to maintain a full project load and full employment throughout the quarantine, and this good fortune is largely predicated on our ability to effectively work from home.  Not simply meetings with ourselves and with clients, but also ideation sessions, video post-production, creative content development, product demo exploration, and more.We have had to revolutionize the way that we collaborate, improving our ability to be creative, clear, and concise in our communications.  We have made improvements in our internal processes and logistics that have been on our priority lists for months, but that we could never quite find the time to put into practice.  Necessity is the mother of invention.

Moving forward, these changes will not merely help our business operate throughout this quarantine, but also should leave a lasting impact on our day-to-day efficiency, our ability to work remotely, and even our work-life balance as we come out of this crisis and start to return to a new form of normalcy.  

Learning the ukulele is a skill that won’t go away when this crisis ends.  It is now a part of who my daughter is that will she can carry with her throughout her life.   And while we are all excited to get back to our own respective “ballfields”, “school days”, and “ice cream shops”, let’s learn from this crisis, invest in positive change, and maybe eventually play our new ukuleles proudly out in the world.

Originally published at

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