Musician and trauma nurse Tad Worku's latest release, "Love Is All," seeks to offer some hope amid a global pandemic.
"It feels like the entire world has been thrown into an emergency department," says Tad Worku, a musician-turned-E.R.-nurse whose day job at the Loma Linda University Health emergency room has gotten tangled up with his music in this time of pandemic.
Worku is the son of Ethiopian immigrants to the United States. He got his start in music playing trumpet, but quickly moved on to guitar and piano.
“After I graduated from college, my dream was to kind of make it as a professional musician, so I moved out to San Francisco and started doing these open mic shows," Worku says. "And what had happened was I got an opportunity at one of the open mic shows to do, to headline my own concert.”
That concert led to connections in the San Francisco music scene.
Eventually, Worku was on the brink of going on tour through a grant that would fund him and his new album. But that grant came with stipulations.
“They had funded my pop album but the stipulation was no religious, no political music funded in that, in the grant that I had been given," Worku says.
That was a problem.
“And so I had just written this song, Love is All, and it kind of, really kind of went to the soul of what I wanted to say musically, and it was definitely in the vein of Christian. And so as I wrestled with that, I really had to come to terms with, how can I accept the grant and kind of follow this path that I feel I'm called to follow.”
Worku ended up turning down the grant.
“So I remember walking out of the studio that day and just standing there and really thinking, you know, this is it. I don't have any songs, I don't have any music, I shelved my album, nobody's going to come give me funding again, so I think this is it.”
So, with music seemingly behind him, Worku went looking for a different career path.
After considering his options, he enrolled in a nursing program, and that led to him working in the E.R.
Working as a nurse in high-stress situations actually helped his songwriting.
That led to his latest album, “Love Is All,” where he talks about some of his experiences working in the emergency department.
“There's a song on the album called Love Remains, and I wrote it after I'd just had my first patient, I'd just trained in trauma, I was by myself in trauma and I had my first patient die. And I remember going home and grappling through like what do I do with that? Do I harden my shell a little bit? How do I not get jaded in this place where I'm looking at the pain and suffering of life?”
He was about to go on tour for this new album when the coronavirus epidemic started to kick into gear. But he wasn’t devastated by this.
“So it definitely was disappointing and it definitely was difficult to process through but underneath all of that, I had peace. I actually think the music is meant for a season like this more than it is just for me to go on tour.”
Worku says his roles as both an E.R. nurse and a musician give him a unique perspective on the pandemic.
“And so those experiences for me that were my personal wrestle, my personal struggle through what do you do with that, now there's almost a collective struggle with that. And so I think a lot of the songs on the album almost speak to the spirit that the whole world is in right now, you know? That's the realization of why I got into it in the first place.”
Worku says he doesn’t know when the tour will be re-booked. But he hopes his music will provide some hope for people until it is.
“In the meantime," Worku says, "let me be a blessing however I can.”