Casper high schoolers take music festival online

CASPER — The song begins this way: “Days are good/And that’s the way it should be.” 

Lean Rose sings it out, strums it out, from the confines of her home. 

There’s a reason she’s at home instead of continuing on her sophomore year inside Kelly Walsh: These days, the days are not so good. About 150 Wyomingites have been confirmed to have the novel coronavirus, the majority in the past week. 

Schools, incubators for the contagious virus, have been shuttered for 15 days. Businesses are closed too. Social interaction is all but forbidden. 

Still, the second lyric is true. The days should be good. Rose and hundreds of her classmates should be crowding Kelly’s gym. They should be piling up pillows, lounging in pajamas, relaxing and singing and break-dancing to a school-wide concert held every year. They call it Rodstock. 

But the gym is empty, and Kelly Walsh is empty. 

For better or worse, the internet isn’t empty. 

It’s full of possibilities, and for a school physically divided for the foreseeable future, YouTube and Twitter and Facebook may be the best options to keep the concert going. If there were ever a good use for the internet, leveraging it to continue Rodstock may be it. 

“We wanted to keep the tradition going,” said KW teacher Marc Fleming, who’s coordinating the effort, “but also, things being so far away from everybody — music brings everybody together, performance brings everybody together.” 

Fleming had begun gathering audition tapes roughly two weeks ago, around the same time Gov. Mark Gordon recommended schools be closed and just about every district complied. Fleming didn’t want to give it up, so he began to message students on social media to see if they would play their music in videos that could be posted periodically throughout this week. The goal is to show the community — and the students — that Kelly Walsh is more than a building. 

Rose picked “Bright” by Echosmith. It’s a happy song, a love song. That’s why she picked it. The world could use that right about now. 

“It was definitely important for me to do something that was happy and would maybe make somebody smile,” she said. 

Celia Nelson, a junior at KW, has performed at Rodstock every year she’s been at the east Casper school. She picked “Valerie,” made famous by the late, great Amy Winehouse. It’s a comfortable song for her. It’s warm and inviting, but maybe that’s more Amy than the lyrics. 

“Varlerie” is about a few things. But in a bit of an ironic twist to a socially isolated society, its chorus asks Valerie to come on over. 

“Well sometimes I go out by myself/And look out across the water.” 

Like Rose, Nelson plays the guitar during her video. 

With school out for the past two weeks, she’s been playing video games — Red Dead Redemption, a Western epic. In her video, she’s sitting in front of her bed, her clear-framed glasses reflecting her computer screen, a tie-dye grip clipped to the top of her acoustic guitar. 

When Fleming asked her to participate in this digital Rodstock, she was enthusiastic. 

“Hell yeah, I like Rodstock,” she said. “I was really glad that it’s still happening because Rodstock is one of my favorite things to do and I’m really glad we could find a way to get around this whole pandemic stuff.” 

Senior Andrew Brown, also a veteran Rodstock-er, had similar motivations for participating. 

He submitted a video of himself playing the piano and singing Ben Platt’s “In Case You Don’t Live Forward.”

It, too, is a love song. It’s nostalgic, the sort of thing you imagine yourself saying to a person the last time you see them. 

“The lyrics mean a lot,” Brown said. “And especially during this time where it’s kinda hard to maintain a sense of hope when everything’s ripped away.” 

Fleming said he’d be dropping the students’ videos every few hours through Friday. Each one would get a few hours in the spotlight, alone to soak up some attention and let their voices speak. 

“We’re just trying to make people happy and bring people together,” Rose said, “and I think that’s really important.” 

The days aren’t good. but they should be. They always should be, and what if we could make them so?