Students at Mount Baker Secondary in Cranbrook have made the most out of the past few months of learning from home by coming together to create two online videos to showcase the hard work and talent of the students in the music programs.
With the direction of their teacher, Evan Bueckert, the students have created both an A cappella vocal jazz compilation and a jazz band compilation video.
“Our performance season here at Mount Baker came to a sudden stop a few months ago, along with music programs at other schools and every kind of performance organization in the country and beyond,” said Bueckert. “It happened exactly at the time when my music students were beginning to really hit their peak. All of our concerts and recording projects were cancelled and we faced the reality of having to figure out a way to keep going just when the going was really good.”
He says that the vocal jazz group had just won the regional music festival and was set to attend provincials in the East and West Kootenays. The senior band students had also just come from being the first student-only orchestra pit for a musical theatre production in over ten years.
“Some Zoom meetings ensued, and it was decided that some how, some way, we had to make use of all of those months of training and rehearsing and put them to good use,” said Bueckert. “And so, the Mount Baker Music ‘Quarantunes’ virtual concert project was born.”
It was no easy feat, and students from every grade were encouraged to participate.
“The first step was setting up. Each student had to create a home studio space where they could sing or play, with good lighting and acoustics if possible. As a proof of concept exercise, they had to take a short video of their space and send it to me for marks,” Bueckert explained. “This was very entertaining and I got to know the names of most of my students’ pets.”
He went on to say that students began working on their specific songs from home, practicing their instruments and keeping their voices in shape, and playing along to YouTube videos of Bueckert conducting them. Students fondly referred to these conducting videos as ‘BueckTube’.
“This way they could be ready to perform relatively on time and play at the same tempo together,” he said. “Once they were ready, they each made phone or laptop videos of themselves playing their parts, and uploaded them to a central online server that I created. In the case of the singers, we also recorded a live Zoom performance all together to add the visual component.”
Bueckert then used his editing skills to stack all of the videos together and place each student on the screen in their own window.
“I used a separate audio editing program to separate the audio so it could be properly mixed and balanced, and this soundtrack was then placed back into the video. And, just like that, we were back together, playing again!” Bueckert said.
The entire project took three months from concept to final project, which Bueckert described as painstaking and tedious work.
“It was so worth it in the end,” he said. “Not all the projects turned out in the end, due to technical issues or timelines, but [there are] two that did. Also, some students whose videos did not turn out just sent me their audio and a still photo instead.”
He adds that students reported feeling a bit scared to play all alone without the support of their peers around them, but with a bit of practice they got used to it. Having the conducting videos and a tempo click in their headphones ultimately helped the most, Bueckert said.
Both Bueckert and his students have been wanting to create a similar video for some time now, and this was the perfect excuse to finally do so.
“I have been wanting to create this exact project with the Mount Baker Music students for a few years now, but there just hasn’t been the time to get everyone to record from home,” he said. “We have now found ourselves in that exact situation and it was a perfect time to try to make the best of the situation and give it a go.”
Lastly, Bueckert thanks his students for their hard work and dedication, and says this will be a skill they can carry forward into their musical careers.
“I think this has taught these kids a tremendous amount of self confidence and given them a big leap in technical proficiency,” Bueckert said. “Even when this is over, the multi-recording technique will now be a part of our curriculum. You can see the smiles and pride on their faces when they hit that final note.”
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