Optometrists around the country have switched their eye charts for microphones, as the industry comes together to launch a new song, ‘We Are Here’.
When the COVID-19 pandemic led to closing the doors of many optometry clinics across the country, professional musician and optometrist Sophie Koh and the team at Optometry Australia wanted to do something to connect their members and boost morale throughout the industry.
Leaning on her music degree and vocal talents, Sophie partnered with industry veteran and prominent music producer Robin Waters, known for his work with Ella Hooper (of Killing Heidi fame), to create the song.
Inspired by stories and poems shared by over 60 optometrists capturing their reflections and experiences during lockdown, We Are Here is an uplifting track, reminding us all that even in the most isolating and uncertain of times, the optometry community is here to support the public and each other.
To learn more about the song and how the industry rallied together, we spoke to Sophie Koh, the optometrist and musician behind the project.
What inspired you to develop this song and music video?
At the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown, Optometry Australia attempted to contact every member across the country to gauge how they were going and offer support. A consistent sentiment that came up among our peers and members was uncertainty, and with that came stress and anxiety for some.
As with most industries, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the optometry sector in a number of ways – be it small business owners concerned about keeping their practice running especially during the strict lockdown phase, or graduates unable to get their clinical experience in or losing their jobs.
To help unite the industry, the team at Optometry Australia decided we needed to give our members something positive to think about and engage in something fun. That’s when my colleagues tapped me on the shoulder, asking me if this was something I would be interested in leading.
How did the industry respond to your call out for creative in-put?
I’ve been working as an optometrist for over 15 years and have always had a dream of forming something musical with my colleagues – either a choir or a band – but the idea had never really gone anywhere.
When this project came up, I jumped at the opportunity to make something happen.
The first step was to invite our members to contribute lyrics to the song - I was very aware we have a lot of creative, musical optometrists around the country. We were hoping that people would contribute in some way, but the response we had was amazing! Some members emailed me their reflections on COVID-19, others sent me poems, and I even received a couple of complete original songs.
After receiving all of the submissions, my good friend and music producer Robin Waters joined me to compile the lyrics, and a few weeks later we were in the studio recording.
With the individual reflections on life in lockdown and thoughts on the optometry industry as a whole, we wanted the lyrics to bring to life the vast and varied experiences of COVID-19 and to serve as a reminder that regardless of being isolated and in lockdown, the optometry community continues to support each other.
Once the song was completed, we then set out to make the video clip using Zoom to brief the participants. Over 50 optometrists logged on and it ended in a virtual dance off, which I think really lifted people’s spirits.
Why was it important for you to make this a collaborative project with your peers?
I think that when you’re involved in music - whether it’s a pub choir or just a casual singalong – there’s something magical about coming together musically; it is an amazing way of uniting people. Singing is good for your soul, even if you don’t know how to sing.
What are you hoping to achieve through the project?
First and foremost it was to unite our members in a light hearted way that could distract them from the stress and anxiety COVID-19 has brought on, but also to provide a more rounded view of optometrists.
The public and consumers often see health professionals as quite one dimensional, and I really wanted to challenge that. This project highlights that optometrists aren’t just health practitioners, but we are individuals with unique talents, tastes and interests. Science and Art go hand in hand.
Can we expect to see more music videos from Optometry Australia in the future?
I hope so! I never really thought something like this would come to life, so when the call came saying ‘Sophie would you be willing to do this?’, I just couldn’t believe it!
Optometrists who took part in the project are already asking me ‘Sophie what else are we doing?’, which has been really great to see.
I’m hopeful that one day, we’ll all come together in a physical space and make something happen. I already have a John Farnham song arranged in 4 part harmony ready to go!
I’m so privileged to have led this project, but so proud of my colleagues many of whom stepped out of their comfort zone to have some fun during some pretty uncertain times. They let their hair down, were not afraid to make mistakes, were authentic and had fun with each other.