Emerald Elementary music teacher Diana Sorbo, never would have guessed that she’d become a YouTube sensation. Since the beginning of the pandemic, however, she has had three songs that have gone viral, gaining her quite a large, international following.
Her first hit was a cover of the Beatles song, Help!. Released in the initial days of the COVID-19 crisis, well before pandemic videos became the norm, it struck a chord with exasperated educators around the world.
“I got messages from teachers in Greece, Austria and New Zealand. They said, ‘I’m really feeling this today. Thanks so much for the chuckle.’ That was significantly more than I could have hoped for, asked for,” Sorbo said.
She says everyone was overwhelmed with the prospect of having to teach students remotely during the first day of the COVID-19 crisis.
“I joke that if you ever want a song to go viral, write it about a group of humans that are literally across the planet – all being thrust into the same situation at the same time and are required to sit at their computer all day,” Sorbo said with a laugh.
She says that despite the fact that many of her students aspire to be YouTubers, it never crossed her mind. As a classically-trained hornist, who earned her undergraduate and masters in music education, Sorbo has had plenty of experience performing publicly.
She had never produced a video like this before, but was known for crafting funny tunes for coworkers, something that she fine-tuned while growing up.
“My sister and I wrote silly songs for my family,” Sorbo said. “That is just what we do.”
She says that she created the video at the prodding of her principal, Samara Williams, who was trying to raise the spirits of teachers and staff members at Emerald Elementary.
“It was really meant to be for my colleagues,” Sorbo said. “I almost didn’t put it on Facebook.”
She did however, and the response was immediate.
“When that video hit, it exploded overnight and my colleagues were all texting with updates on the numbers because they were excited,” Sorbo said.
Eventually it garnered what Sorbo calls ‘silly numbers:’ 18,772 views on YouTube and 867,000 views on Facebook, as well as coverage by CBS4. She still isn’t comfortable with the attention she received for her creativity, which she calls ‘ridiculousness.’
“I did the songs not for the attention, but because I enjoy them,” Sorbo said.
“I will be honest. I’m from North Dakota, so modesty is required,” Sorbo continued. “Having any kind of attention placed on me feels very unwarranted.”
In fact, even today, she is true to her Dakota roots and quick to deflect the spotlight to other outstanding musicians throughout BVSD.
“My colleagues work so hard. There are teachers in this district that I want to be,” she said. “I am not the teacher that deserves the attention.”
That is likely why it took a while before she posted her next song.
“That second video happened the day before school started. My colleagues, all of us were under. I should have been writing lesson plans that day,” Sorbo recalled.
She says that pieces that had been stewing her mind all summer suddenly fell into place and voila! We’re Still Online, a cover of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline, was born. To date it has received 28,081 views on YouTube.
Instead of complaining about the situation, Sorbo says the song gives her an avenue to express her feelings.
“That is what it is for me, trying to find the levity in the situation,” Sorbo said. “This is nuts. This is bananas and yet we are doing it.”
“The [songs] happen when emotions are high and it feels like we need it,” she added. “That is when the inspiration comes. There is always a song.”
In November, it was Dolly Parton’s Jolene that provided Sorbo with the tune for her third single, Quarantine, based on the music from Dolly Parton’s Jolene. So far it has racked up 3,850 views.
You can subscribe to Diana Sorbo’s YouTube channel to get her next hit, whenever inspiration strikes her next.