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It's March 2020, and a new viral infection has just been named a global pandemic by the WHO, a designation that hasn't been used in over a decade. Uncertainty reigns as the coronavirus spreads rapidly across the world.

We each have our own journey and story with the beast that is COVID-19, but a common theme in homes across the world has been burnout. The fatigue of juggling health and financial concerns, abrupt transitions in professional and social life, and the struggle to maintain some semblance of normalcy has pervaded the lives of nearly every family or individual in some way.

One aspect of regularity that took a huge hit was participation in music. Due to the lockdown, musicians' performances and rehearsals were delayed indefinitely, and lessons were canceled. For many aspiring young musicians, their passions were paused. The combination of pandemic fatigue and, in some cases, lack of available teachers resulted in less motivation to practice and less engagement in music.

And parents noticed; some took to social media, lamenting the circumstances. Many sought new teachers, but couldn't find any that were still offering lessons. As the news circulated between family friends, some musicians decided to take initiative and utilize their abilities to assist the community.

When Illinois high school students and accomplished musicians Rosie Wang and Linda Wang discovered the situation, they had a lightbulb moment. They realized that they could utilize Zoom — at the time, an unfamiliar name — to provide music lessons for young children to boost motivation and sustain lessons in technicality and expression. It was an innovative idea, one that would encourage community participation and engagement not only from the students but also from experienced musicians. In a time when connections were becoming increasingly rare, Rosie and Linda (alongside fellow musicians Anika Veda and Adriana Koch) created a way to educate and bond through music.

The fledgling organization was born Covid Music Mentors, and students were connected to mentors based on a plethora of factors like instrument, age, years of experience, time zone, among others. The idea was established; now, the organization needed musicians. Reaching out to family friends and social media for recruitment, the team worked tirelessly to spread the word. And it worked, as word spread quickly. Students and mentors signed up, and the organization was featured on the CYSO blog and formed connections with band and orchestra directors across Illinois.

Beyond reach, Covid Music Mentors was finding great success in emotional links. Because of its personalized one-on-one lesson system alongside a strong emphasis on quality pairing strategies, the organization's students and mentors formed close bonds. On top of teaching experience, musicality, and technicality, mentors and students could share their love for music and meet new people in a time of social distancing. Through music, Covid Music Mentors helped the community remain connected. Their lessons fought off lockdown stagnancy in both learning and social realms and gave bored students a way to stay engaged. The board's emails were flooded with adorable images and videos of cheerful and excited students and mentors, visual proof of their impact.

But as Covid Music Mentors snowballed, rapidly gaining traction and reach, the team realized that the passion project they had built was something much larger than initially planned. It was an organization that could extend far beyond pandemic times; even past lockdown, it still provided a method through which high school musicians could share their skills and pass down knowledge. Aside from Covid Music Mentors, opportunities to teach music were scarce for high school students, and virtual lessons that were time-flexible were rare for young musicians.

The team decided that the project should continue even past the pandemic and rebranded it to the name we know and love, a name that perfectly encapsulates its mission: Sharing the Stand.

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