Band concert goes virtual

The Branham Band Program has turned to livestreams to debut their music

Tae Yun (Erica) Kang, Managing Editor

Band Director Christopher Nalls’ program holds their concerts of pre-recorded pieces through livestreams to keep the event going during the school closure, and the experience has been very different compared to previous times. 

In-person concerts consisted of a lot of ensemble pieces, and a couple of solo pieces. However, the new online format has caused there to be a lot less ensemble pieces, for the editing process would take too long for all of the band members in ensemble groups. The band ended up playing one piece of music for each big ensemble, with the exception of just Jazz Band playing two. 


Along with the difference in the types of performances being displayed, the concert preparation has been just as different as the concert itself, needing constant attention and effort from the band students. Because distance learning does not allow students to play music together, each individual student had to record themselves playing on a software called Soundtrap, where a metronome was playing as the first track to help them stay on the same tempo as the rest of the band. Then, all of those individual recordings would be lined up, sometimes with editing and fine tuning, to make it sound like the band was actually playing. With the change in how the music was put together, the role of the band director directly changed as well. 


“My job isn’t just conducting and keeping time, it’s editing that music together,” said Nalls.


Despite the elaborate process that is needed to piece together the music, the band has remained positive throughout the obstacles, such as viewing individual recordings as an open door for more individual feedback. While playing in a group does help to hear the overall outcome, it didn’t leave much space for every single person to play and receive feedback. So with the new process of putting together the music, each individual student’s playing and performance has been able to be the center of attention, and have even been the spark to more solo opportunities. 


“It gives the opportunity for some of our individual students to shine in a solo or small group setting, so it’s nice that we get to do more of that. Because usually it’s just the large ensembles, maybe with a senior soloist or the like,” said Nalls.


 The band was able to see even more positive effects in the aspect of audience interaction. When concerts were in person, they did not allow the band to interact with the audience. However, with online concerts, the students were able to respond to audience comments in the YouTube live stream and interact with them.


“We had Dartmouth students that were told to come to the concert,” said percussionist Will Irish. “So we had multiple times where a Dartmouth kid asked questions. We had a clarinet soloist on the screen, and the kids were asking, how did he do that, or what was that technique, and then the kid who performed it was answering questions about his performance and helping the middle schoolers.”


There were positive effects of the online platform, but the process wasn’t always easy, and there were many hardships that the program had to overcome. The band was a tight knit group and were always interacting together while rehearsing and preparing for in person concerts, so it was difficult for students when that daily interaction was taken away.


“In band we really consider ourselves to be a family, we have a very tight knit community. So only interacting via computers, and having, like the little boxes of your face has made it really hard to get that personal connection. And the same thing with having concerts, you don’t really get the feeling that you’re performing because you just press record on a phone, play your part, and submit it,” said drum major and clarinetist Mia Janosik.


With the changes in the format of the band concerts, there have been a result of both positives and negatives, but the band has continued to be a group persisting through the difficulties of distance learning. 


“So, in one way that’s good because I get to listen to individual players quite a bit more than I do in an ensemble setting. But you could talk to anyone of us from the rank beginner to the old man and we’re all going to say the same thing that we just miss playing together.”