When COVID-19 began shutting down concerts and nixing live audiences in the spring, Kokomo High School Band Director Brandon Anderson saw the writing on the wall – his band students likely wouldn’t be performing in front of crowds this school year.
Quickly, he began looking for alternatives to still give his students a concert-like experience as the annual concerts the bands put on, he said, motivate students and give them something to work toward. For the school’s spring graduation, Rob Moss of FastPlay Sports live-streamed it, and a lightbulb went off for Anderson. While a live-stream wouldn’t be ideal for band performances since parents would be at the school waiting to pick up their students, a recording would.
“We were very big on making proactive choices so things can’t get canceled. So with a recorded concert rather than a live audience, we’re less likely to take an opportunity away from the kids,” Anderson.
Anderson began working to adapt. The school corporation hired FastPlay Sports to record and produce a virtual concert, while Anderson worked to get rights to the music. As of last week, the KHS band wrapped up recording its first virtual concert, which took the place of the annual fall concert.
While Anderson said some students didn’t take the recording as seriously at first as they would have taken a concert in front of a live audience, he said they quickly realized how professional the quality of the production was. And, unlike a live concert, they realized their virtual performance would be immortalized.
“There are a lot of differences in how we have to approach it, one being that because it’s online forever things that you might go, ‘Well, they tried their best, but it didn’t go well,’ we can’t really do that when it’s going to be there for people to look at forever,” Anderson said. “ … I think that once we got there and they saw the number of mics and heavy-duty cameras and the guy in the back yelling out, ‘No, we need to do that again,’ they realized how big of a deal it was. So there’s a little bit of extra pressure on them.”
Because of that, Anderson said the students were encouraged to bring an even higher level of play.
The benefit of a pre-recorded concert, too, was that students got a taste of what a real-world recording studio was like. They were allowed retakes and were taught to use “critical ears” in understanding the differences in sound quality from sitting on stage versus being in the audience versus having headphones on and listening to the microphones.
“We’re trying to get them some more real-world information as to what a recording studio would be like and that process, and I think that’s helping it feel more like an event rather than just on Monday they had to wear black clothes,” Anderson said.
Last week, the school’s bands finished recording and now are anxiously awaiting the produced product.
Clarinet player Anjili Sood, a sophomore, said she’s looking forward to being able to share the concert with family that lives in another country and typically wouldn’t get to watch her in concert. She also enjoyed being able to do re-takes.
But overall, Sood said she was thankful that she and her peers still were able to perform on stage with each other.
"I'm really excited that we still were able to do a concert even though it wasn't necessarily the same. It just felt good that we were still able to perform and show what we were doing," she said.
Due to social distancing, the school’s four bands recorded three separate concerts. Recognizable music includes "Beethoven’s 7th Symphony (Allegretto)," which was chosen as this year marks the 250th birthday of the famed musician, and "Sweet, Sweet Spirit," a pop-gospel number by Doris Akers.
Between songs, students made announcements to give background information on the pieces, something Anderson said they particularly enjoyed.
Now that the recording is done, Anderson, too, is looking forward to watching the virtual concert. Having the recording also will allow him and the students to critique it and work on improving, as the band’s spring and end-of-year concerts also will be pre-recorded and made available online.
“I’m thrilled. I’m excited for it. I’m confident it’s going to be well-produced. Rob Moss and FastPlay Sports did great work with the graduation ceremony. I’m confident it’s going to be a high-quality product,” he said.
Anderson encouraged the public to watch the KHS band’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts for the link to the concert. The link also will be shared through all of the school’s channels.