Isolation Drills: Valentina Sounds

Like the majority of you, all of us in the Philadelphia area are staying at home, learning to adapt to our “new normal.” MAGNET is checking in with local musicians to see how and what they’re doing during this unprecedented time. Photos by Chris Sikich.

Valentina Raffaelli (a.k.a. Valentina Sounds): As I write this, we have been in lockdown for a little more than two months. At the beginning I was counting the days; now I’ve stopped counting. I had to open a calendar to make sure I had my facts straight. 

I have been among the few lucky people who have been able to keep their job and do it remotely. Besides being a performer, singer/songwriter, music director for Valentina Sounds and several other project (I like to be involved in community theatre), I teach part-time at The Episcopal Academy as a choral director and music teacher, and although it took the school seven days too many to lock down, we transitioned to a remote teaching situation pretty quickly and, I dare to say, pretty smoothly as well.

I’ve also been able to keep most of my private piano and voice students as well. I’m still accepting students in case anyone is interested in getting their voice and piano skills up a bit, or if they just have bored kids around the house and a piano or a keyboard that has been going unused and untouched for years. There’s no time like the present to dedicate to a musical instrument!

I’m originally from Italy; my family and lifelong friends live there. When the pandemic first exploded in Milan, I was submersed by messages and calls from my close family and friends warning me to stay at home. School hadn’t closed yet over here, and I had to keep going to work. “Wear a mask everywhere you go,” they were saying, but masks were nowhere to be found. About a week prior to the Pennsylvania lockdown, I stocked up on canned beans, my favorite shelf stable almond milk, some bags of frozen vegetables, and I waited for the government to make the call. I washed my hands raw, I disinfected everything around me, enough to give myself an allergic reaction to the fumes of the cleaning supplies. 

My colleagues called me crazy, my friends said I was being paranoid. They said I was overreacting. But it was such a relief not to have to rush to the grocery store when everyone else was in full panic mode, buying piles of toilet paper, for God knows what reason.

I jumped on the virtual performances bandwagon almost right away. I’ve been playing a couple of livestream shows a week, with my Italian/American concert being the highlight of my week. Every Saturday at 1pm, I play a concert for friends and fans in both continents on my Facebook and Instagram page. I play songs in Italian and English, and try to keep it fresh and varied from week to week. I’m quarantined with my roommate and backup singer Sara Mingle, who joins me in these live performances. We play for tips, but we understand that the situation is so tough for people right now, so we’re really just happy to provide some entertainment without expecting anything in return. 

I’ve been trying to help others as I can. I contribute to the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, but also smaller local charities like Femme Freedom (they collect sanitary products for homeless women) and other food distributing non-profits. I’ve also been taking advantage of curb-side pick-up for several restaurants and gelato places, ’cause as much as I love to cook, it’s nice to get someone else to cook for you! 

There are many free things that people can do at the moment to support independent artists and venues: like their Facebook pages, follow them on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, whatever your social media of preference is! For musicians, it’s important to get a “follow” on Spotify (even though they pay us $0 for streaming our music). 

I’ve recently released two new music videos that you can find on my YouTube page. One is a pretty serious heartfelt song called “For Both Of Us,” and one is a super-silly/snarky tune called “Eat The Chocolate.” I recommend them both, but you know, I’m biased.

I’ve been getting more comfortable talking about my anxiety problems lately, so in the next paragraph I would like to share with you what I have to remind myself every day in order not to get paralyzed by panic attacks:

Sooner or later, we will get back to normal. Hang in there. Be patient. If you had something exciting planned for these months and it got cancelled, getting upset over it is not going to make a difference. Just keep healthy and make sure to plan it again for the future. We’re all in the same boat—some better some worse than others. Let’s appreciate what we still have. Even the smallest things.