Ash Devine was giving an online ukulele lesson to a 10-year-old boy Wednesday afternoon when news about the turmoil at the nation’s capitol scrolled on her Facebook newsfeed. Devine finished the lesson and immediately went on Facebook Live herself.
“I was seeing so much stress and fear and panic in people’s posts and knew I had something to offer to redirect that into a more unified, positive direction,” she said. “I thought, let’s do an intervention with song, that we can get through this together.”
Devine, who is 35, was already committed to humanitarian and social justice movements within her music when she moved to Asheville, in 2004. Locally, she performed just as often in hospitals and senior care centers as she did in clubs. Devine has also performed along a half-dozen international nonprofit clowning missions. Clowning, Devine said, is a philosophy about serving as a conduit for compassion and unity through love.
“That philosophy of doing an intervention with music and performance and bright colors and eye contact and love and compassion, that is really the spirit that informed last night,” she said.
Like countless musicians, Devine has performed many video livestreams since the pandemic started. One unique signature of her virtual performances are singalongs, though she can’t see or hear her audience.
“Of all the times I have done these participatory singalongs, I can imagine it just fine from the livestream on my end,” she said. “I know they’re singing along and I know it’s making an impact on people.”
More than 600 people tuned into Devine’s hour-long livestream Wednesday. After 16 years in Asheville, Devine said the economic effects of gentrification and the pandemic forced her to move back last May to her native Blacksburg, Va. She’s hoping conditions change enough for her to return.