Makin’ Music, Freed-Hardeman University’s annual musical extravaganza, did not take the stage in April for the first time in its more-than-40 year history. Hundreds of students had practiced for months. They had written lyrics, practiced choreography, designed costumes and staging and rehearsed for endless hours, all in anticipation of the annual event which typically draws large crowds to campus. Makin’ Music was canceled by concerns about the COVID-19 virus.
A “heartbroken” Tony Allen, the show’s producer, met with approximately 60 student participants during chapel March 11 to inform them that since spring break would be extended, it would be impossible for the show to take place as scheduled. “Makin’ Music is a year-long process,” Allen explained. “As soon as one show is over, the next one starts. Leaders are chosen and they start working on the show. I was devastated, just thinking about all of the hard work, the love that goes into it, the seniors who wouldn’t get closure, the experiences, the relationships, the list goes on and on.”
“At first it looked as if Makin’ Music wouldn’t happen when we were expecting it to happen, and then all of the sudden, it wasn’t happening at all! It was just bizarre how much changed in the course of 48 hours,” Peggy Weaver, director of the hosts and hostesses, said. “My first thought was, ‘Our theme this year is ‘Sing Me Back Home,’ and I guess that is exactly what is going to happen.”
Makin’ Music, however, was destined to make one appearance. After Allen gave students a “few minutes to hug each other and to grieve,” he spoke again, suggesting Tuesday night’s run-through be live streamed. The show’s leaders agreed to go for one chance to show what they had accomplished. They decided “to take what we had and throw it on stage.”
“Most of my hosts and hostesses knew after the initial shock wore off that performing our show, however imperfect, needed to happen! Everyone involved in Makin’ Music had been working on their part of the show for a year and needed this show to happen to have a little bit of closure,” Weaver said.
Sadness was quickly overtaken by excitement, according to student coordinator McKenna Shrader. “Everyone seemed grateful that we were able to do the show, even if it wasn’t the way he had hoped and planned,” she said. “There was a sense of closure to be able to finish what they had worked so hard on, for over a year. It wouldn’t be the full effect of a Saturday night Makin’ Music show, but they would still experience the feeling of being on the Loyd stage in front of an ‘audience,’” she said.
That one performance was both debut and finale. So, on what would have been the night for tech check, they ran through the entire show, sans the professional sound and lighting normally accompanying the show.
It was, as the director and coordinator had warned, raw. Technical glitches marred the early part of the performance. “It was very weird for my performers to perform to a camera,” Weaver said, “but after the first couple of songs, the texts were rolling in to all of our phones letting us know that there were thousands of people watching and cheering us on from their homes!”
In fact, nearly 12,000 unique viewers watched the show, making it by far the largest audience ever to watch a Makin’ Music production. “It will go down in history as one of the most watched Makin’ Music shows, so it is definitely very memorable for everyone that watched or participated in the show,” Shrader said.
In more that a bit of irony, the first line of the opening number says, “Tonight’s the night we’ll make history.” It goes on to ask, “Whatcha doing tonight? Have you heard that the world’s gone crazy?” The world had, in fact, gone crazy. And, Makin’ Music 43 did make a little history.