Youth adds musical twist to pandemic

Ava Berken’s new lyrics to local musican’s song reflect impact of living in isolation

APPLETON — Like people throughout the world, Ava Berken had a lot of questions during the COVID-19 quarantine. On one particularly challenging day, she put her questions to song, making up her own lyrics to the song “Why?” by Randy Peterson, a local children’s singer.

Your Catholic Neighbor: Ava Berken (Amanda Lauer | For The Compass)

Ava, the daughter of Sarah and Aaron Berken, has an 11-year-old sister, Anna, and 13-year-old brother, Isaac. According to her mom, their family has been fans of Randy Peterson, who performs at schools, libraries and parks, for years. “He’s great. We have some of his CDs. One day Ava started singing his song, ‘Why?,’ which is all the why questions that kids ask.”

The difference that day was Ava had changed the original lyrics to why questions about the quarantine. “These were things I was thinking,” said Ava. “Like why can’t we see our friends, why can’t this quarantine end?”

After hearing the new lyrics, Sarah contacted Peterson. “I thought maybe he’d already written something like this because there are a lot of questions that kids would have now. He said no, he hadn’t; have her write them down, I’d love to sing them. He was having these little daily concerts on Facebook. That’s when he first sang it.”

Peterson said that he was touched by Ava’s rendition of his song. “It is pretty cool. My original version of the song has many different random questions that kids might ask ‘why?’ about. Ava gave the song a single direction. I actually like her version better.”

Since the video went on YouTube, it’s had more than 1,000 hits. It seems to be resonating with people, including Peterson’s own daughter, who is a teacher in Syracuse, N.Y. “I performed the song on one of my Facebook Live children’s concerts and she called me right after. She commented that the song brought tears to her eyes. She was sure the song expressed how 90 percent of her students were feeling.”

Peterson’s Facebook Live Children’s Concerts are held every Tuesday and Thursday at 3 p.m.

“The best part of the song for me,” said Peterson, “is that those feelings ended up creating something that raised Ava’s spirits as well as the many other kids who heard the song and were feeling the same way. I am happy to have helped make that happen.”

As the safer-at-home mandate winds down, Ava reflected on the how the last several months went. “The hardest part was not seeing my friends. The best part was I got to stay home on my birthday May 1. I always have to go to school on my birthday. It was my best birthday ever.”

“I’m lucky to be a stay-at-home mom,” said Ava’s mother. “My husband has been working from home. We’ve really made the most of the time. We’ve managed really well. It’s been nice to sit back and not rush around. Spring is always an exciting time but it’s a pretty chaotic time as well.

“We have the best-case scenario with me being able to be at home and I know that’s not the case for so many other families so we’re very, very blessed,” she added. “That being said, we’re ready to reintegrate. We miss our friends. We miss getting together with family. Online church has been interesting. The hardest part is the unknown. I’m one who likes to plan and I feel like we don’t have a plan.”

Ava is looking forward to going back to school in the fall. This summer she’s hoping to take tennis and swimming lessons. Their family does their share of volunteering at St. Pius X Parish, so they all miss church, but Ava does in particular, since her first Communion was postponed.

No matter how things pan out in the future with the pandemic, Ava has one thought that she keeps in mind: “God is with us.”

Editor’s note: Listen to Randy Peterson perform the lyrics written by Ava Berken at youtube.com/watch?v=RosrNhnrKfQ.

Name: Ava Berken

Parish: St. Pius X, Appleton

Age: 8

Favorite saint: Francis of Assisi

Words to live by: “God is with us.”