It’s nearly impossible with the COVID-19 pandemic to have a ‘normal’ routine, save the music that many people are listening to now. And with that in mind, the Ithaca Times is putting a single question to Ithacans.

What music have you played or heard that is empowering you during this time of COVID-19? 

Michael Barakiva, Artistic Director of the Hangar Theatre: In preparing for one of our virtual events this summer, I re-listened to the In The Heights soundtrack. I remembered the first run I saw, in Studio 1 of Dillingham, the first summer that I was Artistic Director of the Hangar Theatre. Diane Louie played the opening chords on the rehearsal keyboard and I started crying, and I cried through the entire run. On hearing it again this time around, I was particularly struck by "Benny's Dispatch (Honk Your Horn). Every 7 p.m., those of us still in New York City make noise to celebrate and honor the work of the first responders and the essential personnel still working. Many of those people are the people featured in In The Heights are the people most vulnerable to this pandemic. We hit pots, play music, whistle, cheer. I listen to the cast recording during my bike rides, my walks. This is a show that celebrates New York. New York is different now, but it's not going anywhere, and I can't wait for it to come back. 

Megan Castellan, St. John’s Episcopal Church rector: Janelle Monae’s series of albums construct an alternate future world where cyborgs and androids are enslaved to do the work no human wants to do. But one android succeeds in breaking free, and travels back in time to free the rest of her people. The premise may sound overly heavy, but the music on “Electric Lady” and “Dirty Computer” explore the themes we are living through now: freedom, inequality, injustice, and hope in the face of loss—all with a catchy backbeat. 

Ian Golden, owner of Finger Lakes Running Company: Death in Venice Beach” by The Bombpops. Fresh energy which is needed given the stress of the time, good female vocals, solid tempo to be productive. 

Jessica Levin Martinez, Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell director: Fiona Apple, ”Fetch the Bolt Cutters” (April 2020) Fiona Apple is getting me through! The album is like your coolest girlfriend coming over to make music in your house. I love that she recorded it at home, with the sounds of everyday life—it reminds me that one can be wildly creative even from the living room.

Luz Rivera, Ithaca Health Clinic Coordinator: For me it’s Spanish music. I have a playlist of Reggaeton music that helps me keep going. This one is my favorite. “La Mejor Versión de Mi” (”The Better Version of Me”) is my favorite.

Ben Sandberg, Tompkins County History Center director: Although appreciative during pre-COVID-19 times, my love for Don Shirley has exploded over the last couple of months. When I think of this time in life, it will forever be made better by the backdrop of Shirley's piano. [The CD Ben is playing is “The Don Shirley Point of View”].

Felix Teitelbaum, WRFI station manager: Here's my song: "Mam Yinne Wa" by Alogte Oho and His Sounds of Joy. Without understanding a single lyric, the track brings me to tears every time–tears of joy, sorrow and hope. While originating from the Ghanian "frafra" gospel style, the song draws on sounds from nearby traditions from Nigeria, Ethiopia and far, far, beyond. Think traditional west African meets avant-garde.

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