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As Illinois' shelter-in-place order stretches on, Oswego High School senior Ryan Kazda has provided a moment of levity with an original song that encourages everyone to practice social distancing.
The song, titled "Social Distancing," was posted to YouTube March 21 and features Kazda singing and playing the piano.
In the first verse, Kazda encourages, "These times are rough we could use a little love, but don’t go hugging anybody / Hang out with your family have a movie night, just make sure that you’re six feet apart."
The idea for the song came soon after Kazda and his fellow students were sent home for an extended break on March 13.
"I was feeling very inspired one morning and I think in about 45 minutes to an hour, I wrote all the lyrics and the chords to it," he said.
The melody and lyrics are his own, Kazda said.
"My goal was to create something catchy, for the listener to catch on to," he noted.
Kazda said he had mixed feelings when he heard that the Oswego School District was shutting down over the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
"It was kind of tough because every student likes a little time off from school, but at the same time, the reason for it was not the best, with everything shutting down - it's a very uncertain time of sorrow," he said. As a senior, he also acknowledged the reality of how the shutdown affects his final weeks of school.
"It's tough. I try not to think about it, I try to stay very optimistic about the situation, but being realistic and the situation we're in, it's quite likely that graduation will get canceled and all of the end of the year senior events will get canceled," he said. "I try to put a positive spin on things always, but realistically it is unfortunate."
But despite his concerns, Kazda said his music helped him to turn the shutdown into a creative exercise.
"As a musician, and as an artist, I saw this an experience to explore different ways of creativity and expressing myself during this time off," he said. "I miss my friends and everything, but I saw this more as an opportunity to kind of do something with it."
Kazda participates in several band programs at OHS, including Wind Symphony, Jazz Ensemble 1 and 2, Jazz Combo, marching band and pep band.
After being home for a few days, Kazda said he was inspired by two artists who made similar songs: trumpeter Benny Benack III, who wrote the song "Put a Mask on Your Face," and Northern Illinois University professor Reggie Thomas who wrote "Don't Go Nowhere."
"I heard their songs, and I'm like, 'Hey, this is kind of cool and I want to do the same thing,'" he said.
The intent, Kazda said, was to "spread positivity and put an optimistic look on things."
As the song continues, Kazda reminds listeners, "Don’t touch your mouth or touch your face/Just wash your hands and stay at your place."
Though Kazda is a trumpeter at OHS, his mother inspired him to begin playing the piano around the age of five.
"The piano is a much more versatile instrument, in the sense of doing the right hand and the left hand, kind of the base notes and the harmony notes, the chords...and I always like singing while I play the piano, and it's hard to sing when you're playing the trumpet," Kazda said.
"I do like that balance between singing and playing."
The response has been positive, he said, adding that he was grateful and honored for the feedback.
"I'm very grateful, very honored, very appreciative of everyone who has shared it on Facebook, Instagram, has liked and watched the video on Youtube," he said. "It's truly remarkable and I feel so honored, because as a musician, my main goal is to reach out to people and connect with my audience and make them feel something.
"I truly believe that music is a platform to reach someone's deeper emotions, so I'm very fortunate, very excited, that this had a positive response from everyone in the community," Kazda said.