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Rigby couple uses social media to connect musicians and fans during coronavirus crisis

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Todd and Diana Thompson | Courtesy photo

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing the cancelation or closing of hundreds of entertainment venues, concerts and other cultural events. One Rigby couple, Todd and Diana Thompson, has stepped into the breach, using the power of Facebook to give music performances to fans thirsting for live music.

“We were watching all these concert cancelations left and right,” Diana told EastIdahoNews.com. “That really hits people’s morale. Walking around town, you could see the fear in people’s faces. Music brings people comfort, especially when they’re stressed out like that, and this seemed to make sense.”

“This” is the “Covid Concert Series” Facebook group the Thompsons started. The group lets musicians schedule performances by clicking the “Events” link at the top of the page and picking a time that works for them. When the time for their set rolls up, the artists “go live,” streaming their performances in real-time.

Each time someone schedules a performance, notifications go out to all members of the group. Musicians of all skill levels are invited to participate, and fans can click the “Events” link to check out which artists are scheduled to perform.

The page was initially focused on the east Idaho music scene but has rapidly grown, with nearly 12,000 members from all across the country and the globe as of Thursday.

“We did start with east Idaho musicians, but we’re a small community, and this is happening everywhere,” said Diana. “We quickly had interest from overseas. This is happening everywhere, and people really seem to be gravitating to the concept. It can be bigger, but it’s great that Idaho Falls and southeast Idaho just put music on the map.”

“When we first started out, we reach out to just our local musician buddies and said ‘Hey, what can we do on this?’” added Todd, who plays in several local bands. “I really thought maybe there’d be a couple hundred people, maybe a few people posting once a week. And, boy, within a day, it was a couple thousand people.”

The result has been a supportive online community.

“I know there’s bigger problems in the world than a bunch of musicians missing gigs, but I can’t fix those problems,” Todd said. “Music heals the soul, and the live music community is incredible at pulling together and making things happen, even in bad situations. The comments have all been really positive and supportive. It’s been amazing to watch.”

The Thompsons said one of the biggest challenges was figuring out the technical side of setting up the group. For help with that they turned to Chris Dailey and the “Nerdsweek” Facebook group crew.

“One of the main features of Facebook, and really one of the best parts of Facebook, is the ability to connect with people all over the world from the comfort of your own home,” said Dailey. “So why not take advantage of this amazing feature and give musicians who have had their shows canceled a way to bring their music to not only the people that would have already gone to their show, but to a whole new audience of people that may have never heard of them, or never have a chance to hear them?”

The Thompsons are hopeful that the group will continue bringing musicians and music lovers together long after the COVID-19 crisis has subsided.

“We got the ball rolling on this, but we’re letting the community take it from here,” Todd said. “If they want to keep it going, by all means. There’s no reason we would shut it down.”

“We’re seeing some really ugly stories in the news,” added Diana. “Humans can really be ugly. But, boy, they can really be beautiful, too. And I think music reminds them of that. It brings them back to their better selves, I think, and we want to encourage that. We want people to regain their heads and their wits about them and remember why we love each other and what we can do for each other.”

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