The ripple effect and the impact it may have on lives has been spoken about and quoted for decades.
In the words of Apple Executive Tim Cook, “You want to be the pebble in the pond that creates the ripple for change.”
Oakdale’s Alida McKeon recently found herself in such a place of power as her original song ‘Hope’ was chosen for “World AIDS Day 2020: A National Conversation.”
“I wrote the song the morning after the election,” the Oakdale high school alum said. “I was just feeling overwhelmed with the division in our country. I just felt there was a great misunderstanding between people.”
Currently a Rhode Island resident, McKeon said it is a song she penned in 30 minutes.
She relocated to the east coast following her graduation from Oakdale High in 2015 to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston. She completed her education at Berklee in 2019 with an emphasis in song writing.
That’s a far cry from her initial plans to pursue a degree in Political Science as an Oakdale High School student.
“First and foremost Mr. McGinnis was so inspirational and so instrumental in forming my whole life right now,” the performer said of district music teacher Ross McGinnis. “He introduced me to the steel drums. He encouraged me to audition for music schools. He always listened to what I was writing and what I was doing and was just so supportive and interested.”
According to McKeon, McGinnis gave her the “push” to pursue music over political science.
Yet as one listens to the lyrics of the song ‘Hope’ which she wrote and composed, it is apparent that her two passions have indeed combined by way of music.
“The message in my song is history repeats itself and everything eventually gets better and things pass,” she said of ‘Hope’. To have these things so similar and close to each other historically is pretty interesting.”
The “similarity” she spoke of was brought to her attention by Kevin Herglotz of San Francisco, a member of the team arranging and managing the “World AIDS Day 2020: A National Conversation,” which was hosted Dec. 1.
According to McKeon, her original piece had been shared by community members as well as a family friend, when she first shared it in early November. One family friend shared it with Herglotz, who felt it was perfectly suited for the annual event.
“When they reached out to me to use my song, he explained to me the parallels between the AIDS epidemic (early on) and the coronavirus pandemic,” she explained. “The most striking similarity between them for me was both pandemics people were dying alone. That hit me right in my gut.”
Through her contact with Herglotz arrangements were made for the song to be recorded professionally. Due to the pandemic, studio space was not an option, yet they found a way to make it happen.
“I arranged it with some wonderful musicians that I met through Berklee and we collaborated on the arrangement,” McKeon said of the finished piece.
The real, or surreal moment for the small town girl, however, came when she watched the four-hour conference remotely via YouTube on Dec. 1.
“They played my song at the very beginning and at the end,” the artist said of her heartfelt song. “They actually had an ABC News moderator and his last question to Dr. Fauci was “we all heard the song ‘Hope’ earlier, what is your message of hope?”
Being connected to the two crises has made its impact.
“It was really beautiful to have my song set the theme through the whole event,” McKeon continued. “When I first wrote it, I was sobbing. Then after working on it every day for like a month to get this project done, I sort of lost the power in it. Then seeing it played in that event and the comments of all the people who got together and see them moved by the song was powerful again.”
While the East Coast may be her current home, as McKeon speaks her thoughts and sentiments often return to her small town roots and her passion and appreciation for the community of Oakdale. A place which she shared she feels has been instrumental in her continued success. From her musical family, to the influence of her piano teacher Mrs. Faust, to the scholarships she received from the Heidi Brunk Memorial Scholarship and the Follow your Dreams scholarship from Todd Medema.
“A huge thank you to the Brunk family for being such huge supporters,” she said, noting recognition from non-family members via scholarships as confidence builders. “It meant so much. The community in Oakdale is so overwhelmingly supportive. It’s all so meaningful.”
As with the rest of the world however, the pandemic has put McKeon’s post college career plans on hold for a bit. Currently she teaches music lessons via Zoom, as well as works as a server at a piano/jazz bar.
Yet music remains a part of her life every day. McKeon shared she writes songs daily. A love for good writing she accredits to her father who exposed her to great song writers at a young age.
Recognizing the power of her talent and art has given her a great gratitude and a feeling that indeed she can touch the world.
“It is a way of my purest form of expression that I can access. When I’m playing music or creating music or listening to music that’s when I feel the most myself.”
The songwriter noted she often doesn’t know her own thoughts or feeling until they find their way onto the page via song writing. As is evident in the song ‘Hope’ the musician’s thoughts are often relatable to a large audience from varying backgrounds.
“I just felt this huge sense of hope, because pretty much everybody in the country was fighting so passionately for what they believed in. As terrible as this year has been, there have been such huge signs of hope and of community,” McKeon said. “I think the fact that it resonates with so many people no matter what beliefs or political affiliations or religion or location, is really powerful. Because we all feel a sense of hope. I think we have, despite our miscommunications with each other, a shared goal for peace and forward momentum and a beautiful world to all live in. I think it makes everybody seem a lot more human. I believe in human goodness.”
McKeon has hopes to relocate to Los Angeles or New York once the pandemic subsides to pursue a career in writing for film, television and music licensing. She shared she would love to do that and maintain her independent music/original music projects. She has a single set to be released in January.
Those interested in following what’s next for McKeon may do so by visiting alidamckeon.com as well as finding her on Facebook and YouTube.