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  • Susan Warner, Co-Assistant Principal Clarinet

Music Is Essential

My husband (CSO horn player Dave Griffin) and I have lived in the same house in Oak Park for the past 24 years. During that time we’ve watched couples move onto our block, have families, and become empty nesters. Our particular block is a slice of suburban heaven with summer block parties and winter holiday parties. Always looking out for each other, our neighbors provide support and food for families with new babies or for those who are ill or recently widowed. When our longtime neighbor Carole Ferguson suggested that we participate in the ”clap out” tradition from Europe, our block was all on board; however, on that first night, no one really knew when to end clapping. For our family of musicians, the solution was easy: organize a nightly neighborhood singalong.

Early each morning, I email out the daily song after taking the temperature of the moment—sometimes it feels right to sing something silly to chase worries away, sometimes patriotic, sometimes heartfelt. We’ve sung everything from “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” to “America the Beautiful” to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” The only repertoire requirement is that most people should be able to sing along. Then every night at 8pm, our neighbors come out onto their front porches and greet each other from afar. After a few minutes, the song intro starts on clarinet and horn with singing led by our son Henry Griffin, who is home from college at the Manhattan School of Music where he is a voice major. While my husband and I are unable to perform at Lyric and CSO right now due to COVID-19, we have found that our non-essential jobs are actually extremely essential. Music provides joy, comfort, camaraderie—things that are desperately missed while sheltering-in-place. For as long as we all remain house-bound, music will unite the neighbors on the 500 block of N. Elmwood. For more, here's a Chicago Tribune article featuring Susan and her family:

Susan Warner (with clarinet), Dave Griffin (with French horn), and their children Henry and Pearl, along with Henry’s girlfriend Tian Qin, who was unable to return home to China.

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