NEWPORT, Ore — Karaoke wasn’t always Toby Loftus’s cup of melodic tea.
“I used to hate karaoke. I used to be a hater,” he confessed.
About 10 years ago, the viola player with the Newport Symphony changed his tune.
“After concerts in Newport, for example, we’d go in our dress blacks, formal blacks into this total dive bar and sing karaoke,” Loftus said.
He and friends would sing their hearts out at least every two weeks, but the pandemic put an end to that. Sharing a mic doesn’t lend itself to slowing the spread.
Not only was his stress reliever put on pause, but, at the time, he was also out of a job.
“When the pandemic hit, I was actually unemployed,” he said. “And so, it was really tough, ya know, I had some really tough and dark periods.”
With music gigs coming to a screeching halt, Loftus needed a creative outlet.
“I was thinking, there’s got to be a way that we can do karaoke online,” he said.
The musician with a background in IT was right. He figured out how to make it work, virtually.
“Through trial and error, we’ve kind of cracked the code,” Loftus said. “Some people have a cell phone and a laptop or a tablet and a PC.”
Since May, Loftus has hosted a virtual karaoke party every two weeks for friends new and old, from near and far.
“You might think that watching people on screen through headphones or signing to a microphone and camera would feel impersonal, but several people have remarked how surprisingly intimate the experience is,” he said.
Genres, skill levels, and even the locations of singers are all over the place.
“Sometimes it’s hilarious, you’re laughing until you’re almost crying and sometimes, you’re trying because you’re so moved by the beauty and depth of emotion that people are sharing,” he said.
It’s not just karaoke, singing along to words on a screen, he invites you to join in with instruments too.
The joy of judgment-free performances is something Loftus couldn’t keep to himself. So, he created this website to teach you how.
“This is bigger than me. So, I thought, 'I want to share this,'” he said. “I’m trying to share the gospel of online karaoke.”
The bliss of sharing your talents, making a fool of yourself, and singing along to your favorite tunes. That’s what karaoke is all about. Even online, it transcends the restrictions of a virus that’s kept us apart, making us all feel a little closer together.
"I think people might be intimidated when they see the website because I’m pretty detailed, but bottom line; a cell phone and a laptop and you can do it,” he said.
Tech to make virtual duets happen is tricky, but Loftus is starting to crack that code too. So, stay tuned for that next venture.
Learn how you can host your own virtual karaoke nights at howtodoonlinekaraoke.wordpress.com.