PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Millions of us are spending a lot more time at home as the COVID-19 pandemic brings the modern world and its constant demands to a sudden, jarring halt. And as we adjust to this sudden taste of isolation, some people are stepping up to make the social distancing pill a bit easier to swallow.
People like Chace McNinch.
Chace is a 26-year-old living in Portland’s St. John’s neighborhood. She’s been a musician nearly her entire life: her parents gave her a toy keyboard when she was three years old and it marked the start of a lifelong relationship with music.
Today, Chace plays by ear—meaning she can listen to a song and play it back without ever looking at sheet music. She’s spent time teaching music lessons, booking various gigs and touring with bands.
“I didn’t learn music theory—how to read the notes, what it all meant—until I was in college and I was pursuing a music degree in audio engineering specifically,” she told KOIN 6 News. “I know just enough to explain what I’m doing. I used to teach music lessons when I lived in the city of St. Louis but for the most part I just pretty much listen and go.”
It was her freedom and ability to just play without constraint that was on display this week when tens of thousands of people tuned in to the relatively new Reddit Public Access Network.
For hours, Chace treated viewers to a live concert featuring everything from “Benny and the Jets” to “Somebody to Love.” She seldom took her hands off the bright red keyboard setup in her home office.
At one point, there were nearly 54,000 people watching her impromptu solo session.
“That’s like two stadiums at least,” Chace remarked. Plus her dog and cat.
Chace, like so many Americans, is working from home and following Gov. Kate Brown’s orders to stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19. She works for a Portland-based company called Bandago that rents vans to bands (and families, businesses and other groups) and has been helping the company in its efforts to support local coronavirus relief efforts. She discovered the Reddit Public Access Network about a month ago when she tuned in to a live stream of a person playing with a pet lizard.
“I was just so taken aback by what that was and why it was on my computer,” Chace said. “And I just thought, ‘Yeah, if that’s the bar then why not—I’ll just play piano for a bit’ and I’ve just been doing it ever since. It really popped off the other day in ways that it hasn’t really in the past.”
More people are turning to outlets like RPAN to find comfort and connection during this era of social distancing. And Chace saw an opportunity to use her talents to meet those needs.
“We’re all cooped up and we’re all reading the same news and it takes its mental toll and it gets pretty exhausting,” she said. “So I mean if I can just, do that, on the piano—and if somebody can just stream their lizard doing whatever it is lizards do—I just love the concept, I love the togetherness, I love the community of the thing. And it’s just an honor for me to even be a part of that.”
Chace hopes to dive into Portland’s music scene once the coronavirus mayhem settles down and people can pick up their social lives once more.
But in the meantime, she encourages everyone to lean on whatever outlets bring them happiness while they ride out the storm.
“Playing music for strangers has always made me happy and will continue to make me happy. Find that thing. Do that; do that thing well. Go to bed, get some sleep; get a good amount of sleep. Doctors recommend at least eight hours. Wake up, repeat cycle. We will get through this.”
You can follow Chace on Instagram at chace_am.