Presenting interactive concerts over Zoom: Trial #1
Here's a quick piece I wrote for the Iris Music Project's newsletter:
These days, when people ask me if I’m doing anything with music, I tell them about the Iris Music Project, and how my chamber group, Ears Engaged, has a virtual residency at a senior home.
“We create music videos for them,” I say. People respond, “That’s wonderful, I’m sure they love hearing you!”
But in truth, I’m not sure. After sending our first video concert in September, we felt incredibly under-whelmed by the lack of feedback.
As oboist Alaina Chester says, “It's been feeling like the job was half done. We know it was probably appreciated, but we don't know why or who. We're used to receiving feedback right away with an applause.”
To present October's concert more interactively, we hopped on a Zoom call with the senior residents, planning to chat and watch the video recordings together.
“I had a loose vision of how the evening would play out,” says bassoonist & founder of Ears Engaged, Casey Stamm. “The few audience members who decided to come were very interested in chatting, and we could hear them well. I was not upset in the slightest about only 5 residents showing up. After all, living in a COVID world meant we had filled the room to a 50% capacity.”
“I felt confident about the evening we had planned, and know we took a step forward in our residency,” adds clarinetist, CJ Corbett. “The conversations with our guests made the evening worth it! We were able to learn about some of the life experiences of the Weinberg residents.”
However, as we started to play the first video, we realized the audio quality suffered significantly due to technical details. By the second video, most of our audience had left.
It was tempting to believe we hadn’t played well enough or chosen the right music. But in reality, if we had performed the same music in-person, our audience would have been riveted and delighted. Simply because live music is riveting and delightful.
“Creating live music is the art form we have all been through years of further education for. Recording live music is a completely different degree option,” says Casey. “In order to return to what we love to do (perform), we must overcome our technology qualms. And that is hard. It is frustrating. But it is what our audience needs, and for that reason alone, we will keep trying.”
“The growing process is never comfortable, but necessary and exciting when you can see the potential for a deeper connection through music,” says Alaina.
"We are all becoming better musicians, better filmographers, better communicators, better people through this process," Alaina adds. "Nothing is perfect, but I'm amazed at how much good is happening!”
"I am proud of the hours we put into the concert repertoire," CJ says, "and know that our work will pay off down the road. Projects like this require tenacity, patience, and a positive outlook to the future.”
Ears Engaged is continuing to learn. We have plenty of hope for Trial #2!