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If enjoying good music matters, this shot matters

Plunky Branch James “Plunky” Branch, jazz musician, saxophone player

As jazz venues shuttered last year and music faded from the stages, Branch found the whole scenario unsettling. Then, watching the news one evening, he was moved by the story of a woman in Italy whose rooftop violin performances echoed notes of resilience throughout her town. That gave him an idea. His own instrument of hope would be his saxophone, and his Rosewood Avenue porch near Byrd Park his stage.

Branch erected a sign outside his home announcing free nightly concerts, and word spread on social media. He wanted to reach people — socially distanced people — with his music.

The saxophone performances drew neighbors of all ages and colors to his porch — including a 15-month-old boy whose parents made sure he finished his dinner on time to attend Branch’s shows.

This was an individual he would likely have never met if it weren’t for his COVID-inspired performances, he said. “I'm a Black man and he's a white kid, so that had some poignancy to it,” Branch said.

That’s why this shot matters to Branch: It’s a path to hope and normalcy. As the virus continues to take its toll, he wants to perform for crowds filled with people who, like him, have heeded calls from the experts to get vaccinated.

“I’m a musician by trade, but I went to college to major in chemistry, which means I'm a scientist at heart,” Branch said. “This is what’s required of us as a society to maintain some level of public safety. We cannot do it alone. Everybody has a role to play.”

To get vaccinated, go to vaccinate.virginia.gov. To read more stories like this, visit vcuhealth.org/thisshotmatters.