This letter was written during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 as part of Dear Covid-19. Though some of the events and details in this letter may have changed since then, we hope to remember those in our community who stepped up when it mattered most. Continue to keep up with them on their social pages @rachellimmusic and @cherieruimin.

Dear COVID-19,

Rachel: It’s crazy to think of what has happened in the last three months alone since you crashed into our lives.

I had to shift to online learning in the middle of my final semester of my master’s degree at Boston Conservatory at Berklee in the US, pack up to move back to Singapore within 10 hours (it was probably the most insane day of my life and I had to throw all my belongings) and figure out how to start my career while being quarantined. Who would’ve thought that I’d attend my graduation ceremony online at 2am (US/SG time difference)?

Cherie: I had just decided to move home after living in the US for six years. It was timely for me to have been back when everything went down. LA isn’t what it used to be – so even being there this year, if I had stayed, would have not been the experience I was expecting.

I’m grateful that during this time, I have family, community and work. I got to thoroughly focus on setting up our music school and finishing my album production for my production-writing artist duo, SLAYN.

R: As we saw the news of you spreading around the world like wildfire, we realised that if we didn’t start now, we might miss this one window of opportunity to reach out to people in a very niche area – vocal training. So, as businesses shut down all around due to the circuit breaker, we decided to launch our business that we’ve been working on – Vine Music Studio (@vinemusicstudiosg), which provides online vocal lessons and workshops.

C: We wanted to continue reaching out to people of all ages and abilities during this time of being cooped up at home and thought that maybe just some would like to pick up a new skill. Thankfully, we were right!

We launched our studio on May 1, 2020, a week after the school holidays were announced to be pushed forward. Since then, we’ve run a successful Online Singer’s Bootcamp and Zoom Showcase with 11 students and welcomed others into our programmes. Thank God for technology!

R: We were blessed to be able to start our business digitally during this difficult season and wanted to find a way to give back our resources to those who need it more. As we tried to make sense of all that was going on, we decided to organise an online charity concert titled UNHEARD in support of the local charity, Daughters Of Tomorrow.

C: Together with an amazing line-up of local and international female singer-songwriters, we’ll be live-streaming the show on Jul 18, 2020 at 9pm SGT, on FB and IG. We hope that people will tune in to watch the concert and support underprivileged women who need help with employment training and technology access in this critical time, so they are able to provide for their families.

R: This new normal is something we’ve had to adjust to quickly because of your abrupt arrival. Honestly, the initial prospect of Phase 2 excited us until we were singled out to be the only face-to-face lesson context that was restricted (vocal training is not allowed in person indefinitely!). Despite the challenges we had to go through with adapting our teaching methods, we recognise our privilege and the responsibility that comes with it.

One good thing that came out of it was it gave me the opportunity to continue voice lessons with my students overseas who have special needs, and move forward with my second master’s degree remotely in music education and autism.

I am also extremely grateful that I got to spend so much time with my family. I guess that made up for all the time lost when I was studying abroad. Mum became a masterchef/baker and Dad became a tech guru doing his financial trainings online.

For me personally, I struggled balancing building a career and my role in helping other people who were suffering. I still don’t know why you had to take so many lives and jobs away, but I pray that in the midst of this frenzy, people will cling on to their faith in God and find unity and strength in community. The country is only as strong as its weakest link.

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