HAMPTON ROADS, Va. – One year ago this week, the COVID-19 pandemic changed nearly everything in our country, including music.
Musicians found themselves with no gigs to play because crowds couldn’t gather, and many restaurants and bars were forced to shut their doors.
Local musician Karl Werne grappled with what to do and decided though he didn’t know a lot about the production side, he would take on the challenge of hosting a weekly, virtual open mic session. He also created “Karl’s Community,” a social media forum allowing musicians, both professional and amateur, to express themselves. It currently has about 1,600 members.
“We didn’t know what it was going to look like until we built this airplane in flight,” said Werne during a virtual one-year anniversary celebration.
The group made their own musical montage to honor him. It was set to the tune of “We Are the World,” but with different lyrics referencing how much the virtual forum means to them.
Then, on Thursday night, about 80 musicians and music fans got together online and surprised Werne with a celebration.
“I’m scrolling through four pages just to be blown away by all the people I’m seeing,” said Werne.
His brother, Joseph Werne, also joined, saying, “This is one of those things that can’t be told, but it’s not going to stop us from trying.”
In addition to a slew of kind words, the community also passed around the hat, so to speak, and collected funds to help him get through tough times and buy some equipment to keep the music playing.
“There’s a whole community of people are saying, 'We want more of that in our world,’” Joseph Werne stated.
Karl Werne appeared grateful and a bit speechless. Earlier in the week, he said there’s a chance he might slow down the pace of the virtual open mic sessions, but he certainly shows no signs of stopping what he loves: making music.