Band, choir learn new ways to play music on Zoom

The band and choir students use a program called SmartMusic to play their songs together. The choir recently released the song “I’ll be home for Christmas.”

The music program has found that Zoom and the coronavirus have made performing and working on music to be very hard.

Teachers Paul Nielsen and Dr. Candace Edstrand have used a program called SmartMusic to help teach their students to play the songs they would be doing in school and help simulate a full chorus setup.

“Nothing can replace the actual experience of playing live with an ensemble. At least SmartMusic gives you the ability to play along with a ‘band.’ It is by no means the same thing, but it is the best that I have found,” Edstrand said.

“SmartMusic is a machine. It really only teaches/assesses notes and rhythm. It, unfortunately, cannot teach/assess musicality. Musicality comes from real and raw human emotion. That is what it lacks and hinders,” Edstrand said. Nielsen agrees that SmartMusic hinders expression and showing off true musical ability.

Dr. Edstrand explains that the music program is missing out on a lot when they are not physically together. She explains that things are a lot different, and not in a good way. The social aspect is taken away, and at this time there are no virtual concerts.

“I think the reviews are mixed. Band is more social than anything, and that aspect has been taken away. But, many students have told me, they think it is fun, and they like that it helps them learn their individual parts,” Edstrand said. “I am simply hoping that SmartMusic will help us be able to prepare our music so we can potentially do virtual concerts in the future. Wind Ensemble and Jazz Ensemble are the guinea pigs right now for this.”

Although the band and choir are completely virtual, Dr. Edstrand has hopes about performances and virtual events, maybe even socially distanced performances in tough times when musicians lose motivation.

“Absolutely! Everything about this year is just exhausting for students and staff. As I said before, band thrives on its social aspect. I know that students love making music and performing together, but it’s the in-between times that make it memorable. Finding motivation with anything we do is incredibly difficult right now,” Edstrand said. “All competitions and festivals have either gone virtual or been postponed until next year. There was talk about the possibility of trying to do marching band showcases in the late spring for ensembles to receive feedback, but that is obviously still up in the air at this point.”

The band and the choir both have high hopes going into the spring for the ability to showcase their talent and music.