Walter Johnson High School virtual choir in memory of Jonathan Bos

Singing Bob Dylan's "To Make You Feel My Love"

In the middle of March 2020, as the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic was starting to shut down schools and much of American society, Sheryl wrote a note to the chorus teacher at Rafael's Walter Johnson High School, to see whether she might be interested to do a virtual choir (where everyone records their part individually at home), and that we would volunteer to assemble it into a final product.

Within a few days, a beloved English teacher at WJ, Mr. Jonathan Bos succumbed to his grievous injuries from a traffic accident that occurred in the first few days after the school shutdown. Now the video had a purpose as a memorial to him. Furthermore, it was later suggested that this video be presented at the virtual graduation ceremony.

The original thought had been that the 32-voice Madrigals choir (the elite group at WJ) would do the virtual choir, but when the idea morphed into a memorial, the chorus teacher, Mrs. Kelly Butler, decided to open it to any of her 204 chorus students (across 4 groups) who might be interested. In the end, nearly 70 students (including 4 or 5 alumni) submitted videos.

It turned out to be a massive job, more than 200 hours of work for the two of us, much of which was compressed into the last two weeks of May (in order to meet a June 3 submission deadline for graduation). We taught ourselves DaVinci Resolve (having not done anything more sophisticated than iMovie before) and we estimated that we listened to the song more than 500 times, as we carefully balanced voice parts, did sonic alignment, and more.

The video was viewed more than 8000 times in the first two weeks after its June 11 release, about 3000 times as part of the WJ Commencement video (at the 7:00 minute mark) and 5000 times on the video alone that I uploaded to YouTube. Word spread via Facebook, as well as an article in Bethesda Magazine that appeared on June 19: Virtual choir sings a song of love for WJ teacher who died.

BEthesda Magazine