“Writing music was a release for me and it validated my feelings,” he
says. “When you put your feelings on paper, then emotions like pain don’t
resonate the same anymore. It felt like therapy, a release. Writing songs was
my way of unpackaging the trauma.”
In April, when his Drama teacher, Scott Sumerak, reminded the students
that he was looking to them to set the tone for the rest of the year and that
the upcoming show “New Stages,” a series of student-written short plays,
would be performed virtually via Zoom, Finley approached it with an open
mind. “I thought, ‘I can do this. This can be my future for a little bit.’,” he
says. “It was an interesting experience to have.”
That growth mindset led to additional virtual performances over the
pandemic and, eventually, when COVID-19 cases began to fall in the late
summer, in-person work.
He performed in the Mercury Theater Company’s junior production of
High School Musical Freaky Friday, attending in-person rehearsals for nine
hours on Saturdays. The shows were recorded last month and are available for
viewing. “People would ask me if it was hard to rehearse for nine hours in a
mask, but if you want something to happen, it’s not that bad,” Finley says.
Moving forward, Finley says he wants to study music in college and
embark on a career in music.
“I think that 2020 really gave us all a time to self-reflect,” he says.
“When you have to sit with yourself for a period of time, you have to find
the positive. And for those of us with creative minds, that just means we
have to keep creating.” SL
Isaiah Finley was supposed to be
in the final week of rehearsal for
the Shaker Heights High School
production of the musical “Rent”
when the pandemic forced the
cancellation of the show.
Finley was to play one of the
show’s main characters, Angel, and
was disappointed that he and his
castmates would never have the
opportunity to perform the show for
“It was really weird for me,”
Finley remembers. “And it was
stressful. Emotionally, I was so sad.”
But as a devoted student of
theater and vocal performance,
Finley wasn’t going to let a pandemic
stand in the way of the things that
brought him joy.
So he pivoted.
“I started to write and record
music, and I put that at the forefront
of my plans,” he says. “I knew that
I had to stay creative.” He wrote
songs that he says were “my truth.”
He tried to focus on the future and
better days ahead.
68 WINTER 2021 | WWW.SHAKER.LIFE