Vancouverites fight social isolation sadness by picking up musical instruments

As Dr. Bonnie Henry urged people to stay home, some decided that the pandemic was the perfect time to learn a new instrument


By Jan Bevilacqua

One year ago, as countries enacted strict lockdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, people in seclusion took to their balconies with guitars and tambourines to support the country’s front-line workers. 

Later, as Dr. Bonnie Henry pleaded for people to stay home, some discovered they could actually use this time in seclusion to graduate from tambourine to trombone. The pandemic was the perfect time to learn a new instrument.

For first-year Langara student Liam Sachs, learning to play a new musical instrument was a way to stay productive.

“It’s cool to have a hobby that you can take a step back and look at and think about yourself in a more positive way,” he said.

Sachs, who says he has always been musically inclined, learned the bass guitar and ukulele to help pass the time while he observes strict social distancing with his immunocompromised partner. 

Coping with COVID depression

According to a recent survey by Mental Health Research Canada, 42 per cent of Canadians reported higher levels of anxiety and depression. 

Sean Manning didn’t pick up a guitar until the end of 2020. By then, the realities of isolation were setting in. 

“I wasn’t really doing a whole lot,” said Manning, a former restaurant server, who was laid off in March 2020. “I was slipping into depression a little bit.”

Manning, who had always wanted to learn guitar, said that practicing daily has taught him discipline. 

“It is something that you have to focus on and put aside time every day,” he said, before admitting that learning guitar is not as easy as he thought it would be. 

He is taking advantage of the free lessons he received with the purchase of his Fender guitar. 

Accessible lessons

Some music schools have also began offering classes online. 

Daphne “Ruby” Roubini, who has taught ukulele for 12 years through her Vancouver music school, Ruby’s Ukes, moved her class of nearly 300 students online.

Teaching music through live Zoom classes has been a challenge for Roubini, but it has allowed her to welcome new students living outside of Vancouver. 

She hopes to have students back in class by September, if allowed, but will continue to offer the online course for international students.

For Roubini, learning the ukulele isn’t about the destination. It is about the journey. 

“It’s not about achievement,” she said. “It’s about the joy of music.”

Watch and listen as Liam and Sean go more in-depth about their newly found hobbies:


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