PITMAN, N.J. — As New Jersey bars, restaurants, and entertainment venues close to do their part in supporting “social distancing” in order to help control the spread of COVID-19, many people find themselves feeling isolated and anxious.
Dani Cooke, founder and chairperson of Creative Pitman — a group that focuses on collaboration, education, creative event posting, and resource sharing — saw the paradox of our need to be together during difficult times like these, and, at the same time, the need to keep apart.
“In such uncharted territory as social distancing during this pandemic, we need each other more than ever, but we are all staying apart to keep each other safe,” she says. “I’ve been wondering, as I do, how can we make this time in our homes a time of growth and reflection and maybe even a time of joy even though we are all deeply concerned by the public health crisis and the unknown we are headed into?”
So, she turned to what comes naturally to her, social media.
“As a millennial, I naturally turn to social media for information and camaraderie,” she said. “Social media has offered a sort of psychological and emotional fortification over this past week.”
There she saw one of the viral videos from Italy with people playing instruments and singing in the streets and was struck how it seemed to bring people together.
“Over the past few days, we’ve all seen several videos from Italy of people playing music together or hosting impromptu concerts right from their balcony,” she said. “Those really moved me and have a permanent place in my memory of this event.”
Inspired, Cooke got to thinking.
“I had a nagging thought that I had to create something for Pitman that had some social magnetism, joy, introspection, and the power of storytelling to bring everyone together,” she said.
She realized that the best way to pull people together like she saw in Italy, was “the magical power of art.”
“There is a really effective form of art that can be shared easily over social media: music,” she said.
Cooke then created Radio Pitman, a mini-concert series with very community-minded local musicians and saw a live feed as a logical platform for the program.
“I was stuck on this image of families huddled around televisions in the 1950s, waiting for a program to come on,” Cooke said. “That’s when I reached into Creative Pitman, pitched the idea, and with the support of such an energized, thoughtful, and immensely creative bunch of people, we birthed Radio Pitman: Broadcasting Live Music Across the Social Distance.”
Once the idea was born, finding the talent wasn’t difficult.
“Pitman is loaded with super talented musicians who are incredibly giving and kind,” Cooke said. “It was easy to turn to them to see if they could lift this idea up. They could, they did, they are. Truly brilliant humans. I am so thankful for them.”
Participating singer-songwriter Bill Roth, of Pitman, said that the program can help bring the community together.
“I thought this was a great opportunity to unite the community in a difficult time,” Roth said. “Since we all have to temporarily remain apart it is nice to go online and watch the local music scene still performing and hopefully lifting some spirits.”
Cooke said that every musician who has jumped on board seemed to be excited to participate and to have an opportunity to perform even though our public cultural events are being canceled all around us.
Creative Pitman recognizes that many musicians rely on their events and without events, and that they might be missing some income. So the collective is going to be sending out $20 tips from their event fund to each solo act/musical group that performs.
“It’s a way we can redistribute some of our event money right into the community,” Cooke said.
In order to maintain social distancing, all of the musicians will play and broadcast from their own spaces.
Cooke sees Radio Pitman as not only a chance to build community, but to help heal anxious hearts.
“Art heals. It truly does,” she said. “It offers us these opportunities to get in touch with what’s happening inside of our minds and hearts and it also, through social media live stream, will offer us a way to have one common human experience with our distanced community during the day to help bind us all up together.”
Radio Pitman is scheduled over the next two weeks at 7:30 p.m. to be streamed directly into your home by logging in to Creative Pitman Facebook page.
The Radio Pitman lineup for March:
17th- Richie Green
18th- Mike Murphy
19th- Jason Ager
23rd- Ash Dakota
24th- Jeff Knauss
25th- Bill Roth
26th- Qadir Branham
27th- Molly Fitzpatrick
Interested musicians can message Creative Pitman on Facebook or email at CreativePitman@gmail.com.