Sharing music during a pandemic

coronavirus jonathan cluts

By N.L. Sweeney
During the coronavirus pandemic, Jonathan Cluts has been a positive example of the ways people can give to the community.

Cluts, an alumnus with numerous and deep ties to the University of Washington Bothell, has been bringing together voices and instrumentalists to create virtual concerts for his church.

It’s one of the ways he is working to have a positive impact on those around them.

“My wife and I are very lucky that we are in a position to stay at home,” said Cluts. “Our greatest focus is using our privilege to give back. We want to leverage our skills and resources to help others.”

Remaking the sounds

When the pandemic hit, the Holy Spirit Lutheran Church in Kirkland, Washington, closed its doors in keeping with physical-distancing regulations. “From the beginning, the head of our choir sent out emails asking if anyone had the skills to create a virtual choir for our church,” said Cluts. “When I saw the opportunity to use my skills to help, I immediately volunteered.”

In the 1980s, Cluts worked as owner, producer and manager of various recording studios. During this time, he learned many of the skills that he is now using to bring members of his church back together with music.

To make the choir virtual-friendly, Cluts gathered the tracks of multiple church singers performing the same song. Then, in his at-home recording studio, he compiled and synchronized their voices to create his church’s particular choral sound. For one such virtual concert, Cluts had to put together 15 instrumentalists and 30 recorded voices.

“It takes a lot of work,” said Cluts, “but the pay-off of bringing people together is worth it.”

A couple that cares

From 1990 to 2014, Cluts worked for Microsoft doing strategic prototyping. While working, he discovered UW Bothell, which presented an opportunity for him to finish his education while continuing his career. Working during the day, he attended night classes and received his degree in 1994 in Liberal Arts (the precursor to the current Interdisciplinary Arts major).

Jonathan and Nancy Cluts

Since then, he has continued to stay involved with UW Bothell, working as director of strategic initiatives from 2014 to 2019 and participating in events such as the School of Business pitch night. Cluts also now serves as a member of the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences Advisory Board.

As part of his and his wife’s support of education, they established the Jonathan and Nancy Cluts Endowed Scholarship to help support UW Bothell students.

“It is unfair that someone be deprived of higher education due to their inability to afford it,” said Nancy Winnick Cluts. “Young people are the future, and we need to nurture their minds and offer them all we can so that they can succeed to the best of their abilities.”

More than just music

The couple’s support of UW Bothell and of their church stems from their shared goal of encouraging community growth.

They also have donated to several organizations as part of the Black Lives Matter movement and coronavirus pandemic relief. Nancy Cluts has used her quilting skills to create face masks and donated them to various small businesses, food trucks and charities such as Little Bit, which gives children an opportunity to work with horses.

For both Jonathan and Nancy Cluts, this time is one in which getting involved and using one’s resources and skills to help others is essential.

“The situation the world is in now, people have to step up. If you’re not stepping up in some way, you have to consider yourself part of the problem,” said Jonathan Cluts. “Look for the ways you can lean in right now. Look for the resources or the skills you have to give back.”

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