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Coming Full Circle During COVID-19

Comingfullcircleshutterstock fall 2020, DIckinson Magazine

by Becky Anstine Smith ’77

Every person in the world has somehow been affected by this pandemic. When my anxious and sad emotions begin to take over, I reflect on all the good in my family’s life and try to focus on gratitude. However, I, like all my musical colleagues, scurried to remove instruments from performance venues that shuttered in mid-March. All the excitement, anticipation and gainful employment vanished for the foreseeable future; sadly, now well into 2021.  

I tried to find a way forward, but it seemed impossible. I looked around; I observed my church’s rector presenting an online service without congregation or music and my student’s lackluster demeanor at our FaceTime lessons.  

Gradually it hit me that by embracing technology, not only could I continue my own way forward, but I could also encourage those around me. I sprang into action to learn as much as possible about recording church music on my computer, researching teaching platforms and apps that permitted musicians to record simultaneous tracks. Suddenly sparks of inspiration, gratitude and enthusiasm appeared all around me! As my computer skills solidified, I taught my students and some members of my church choir how to record individual parts on top of a track that I created. These videos were then included in our church’s livestreamed services and online mini masterclasses that I offered for free.  

After honing my skills with breakout rooms on another platform, I encouraged a stymied professional harpist, whose newly launched career screeched to a halt just as it began, to join me in presenting an online virtual harp camp.  

The hours no longer spent in my car driving into Washington, D.C., opened time and energy for creativity. I signed up for online classes in German and French literature at my local community college and am proud—but a little scared—to admit that I enrolled in two online undergraduate German classes at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County this fall. It’s exciting to have circled back to passions from my days at Dickinson. OK, I confess that I’ve also been bingeing on Cheetos and 3.5-gallon tubs of caramel corn from time to time. Luckily our beloved rescue dog keeps me walking two to three miles per day, and I’m gradually curbing my cravings. And our backyard and garden now bloom flowers and vegetables, as opposed to an untidy tangle of “native” grasses.  

Our annual “Dickinson Girls Getaway” still found us meeting on Zoom, but we all appreciated the time to catch up and hope to meet again as we are able.

I am pleased to have discovered that there are ways to continue a rich and purposeful life, even without leaving the living room. Like our beloved mermaid, “whose arms open wide to the sky,” if we accept the changing and often unexpected winds that life sends forth, we can find a way to prevail. 

Becky Anstine Smith ’77 (French & Francophone studies, music) continues to take delight in combining her love of the French and German languages with her career as a professional harpist. Returning regularly as second harpist to her beloved former post with the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, two more recent performances there included Saint-Saëns’ Samson and Delilah, and Wagner’s entire Ring Cycle. As a teacher and performer, she has toured France, England, Wales, Canada and the United States. Becky offers private harp lessons in her home studio and at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, all currently online. Becky lives in Crofton, Md., with her husband, Jeff, and rescue dog, Sophie. They are proud parents of Amelia and her husband, Ben, and son Neal. 

Read more from the fall 2020 issue of Dickinson Magazine.


Published November 6, 2020