Quarantunes: Can’t stop the music

Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Debbie Schuetter of Jasper plays her guitar for a portrait outside her home on Tuesday. Schuetter is one of several local musicians who has been performing online in the time of coronavirus.


Monday morning, from the inside of her Jasper home, Debbie Schuetter propped up her cellphone as a recorder, grabbed a pick and an acoustic guitar, and eased into Bob Seger’s ominous hit 1970s track, “Turn the Page.”

Like many local musicians, Schuetter thrives while standing behind a microphone and in front of crowds at bars and parties. Performing is a way for her to connect to those around her. With the world sheltering from the COVID-19 pandemic and concerts and gatherings being put on hold, though, that avenue for connection has been largely lost.

But that won’t stop the music.

Schuetter and other musicians have turned to online sharing to send their music out to fans who crave their tunes — while also giving the performers a chance to feel close to their friends and loved ones while experimenting in new ways.

Schuetter was diagnosed with breast cancer in early December. Her first in a string of 20 daily cover videos was uploaded after her first chemotherapy treatment, and shortly after posting the second song, her hair began to fall.

Looking back on it, she doesn’t know if she would have started the series had she been bald before it began. Now, she has no plans of stopping.

“As much as people have been giving me all this feedback about how uplifting it is for them, that one video and all the feedback I got back from everybody, it was so heartwarming to me,” the Jasper woman said. “To make me want to go on, whether I had hair or I didn’t have hair.”

She continued: “People don’t even understand. They say I’m the uplifting one, and they don’t even realize that they’ve been super uplifting to me with all their comments, their likes and their views.”

Schuetter works as a sales solutions manager at National Office Furniture. Those who know her know she is filled with optimism and confidence, and she’s leaning on those traits as she fights her cancer. She’s also tapping into the love shared by those who watch her mini-performances on Facebook.

Another Jasper artist, Steven Wagler, has used his time at home to record partially finished songs that were “in pieces,” he said, while collaborating remotely with other musicians to flesh them out.

Wagler has released three tracks in as many weeks. His Facebook post for the first refers to the song as a “quarantune,” and he plans to continue recording, mixing and releasing new pieces of original music into the future.

He wants his audience to think of warmer days, campfires and an overall sense of summer togetherness when they hear them.

“I got really nostalgic for summer,” said Wagler, who does programming work for the U.S. Department of Defense at Crane. “And just how much fun this area is whenever the weather’s nice and we can all go out and do stuff. And so pretty much everything I’ve done lately has been just trying to push that nostalgic, that sort of optimism for summer.”

When it comes to music, more than anything, he enjoys writing and recording. He’d been building a remote recording setup with friends over the years. These days, they’re relying on it to produce new music.

He’s always wanted to team up with musicians in new ways. And now, without the time constraints of their lives before social distancing precautions were taken widely, they all have the chance to do just that.

“It is kind of a positive thing,” Wagler reflected, “to be comfortable enough to take a breath and reach out to some of these people and work on some stuff.”

Wayne Schulte, one of Wagler’s bandmates who works at Meyer Distributing, has taken a different approach to sharing his music. He has live-streamed 30-minute cover sets on YouTube at 9:30 p.m. the past two Fridays, and he plans to continue doing so until life returns to the way it was before the coronavirus outbreak.

“I’d been going down to Snaps every Tuesday for open mic [night],” Schulte explained, “and when that shut down, I didn’t know what to do. When you’ve got no gigs, you kind of lose the momentum and just the drive for it. So, that’s kind of why I started piddle and paddling. I needed to get it out there somehow. Just some kind of way to keep on going.”

He started exploring the far-reaching effects of YouTube a few years ago when he compiled playlists for friends to watch. He named the compilations “WTV” — Wayne Television — and he recently repurposed the acronym when he began sharing his “QuaranStream” performances.

His virtual crowd sat at around 20 viewers last week. Schulte said the online sets have allowed him to connect with friends, and he hopes those who tune in have a good time and smile.

“It’s been keeping me busy,” he said. “That’s really my whole goal, is just to keep me busy and keep me playing.”

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