Music Brings Students Together, Even Though They're Apart 

  • High School
Music Brings Students Together, Even Though They're Apart 

During his long career, High School Music teacher, John Salminen has always taught students that playing an instrument is so much more rewarding when you can collaborate with others. But what happens when a global pandemic prevents your class from meeting in person?

You collaborate online, of course, producing two beautiful pieces of music together.

As a result of the quick-thinking ingenuity of High School music teacher, John Salminen, we can proudly present the first-ever "SSIS Virtual Concerts" from the High School String Orchestra and the High School Concert Band. Even though it's been over 12 weeks since they gathered on campus, you wouldn't know it by listening to their music. 

Mr. Salminen conducts the High School string orchestra during the Winter Concert in November 2019.

But, producing music online, with your conductor in one location and your musicians spread throughout the city, isn't a simple undertaking. It requires musical and technical know-how, a significant amount of planning, and some foresight. 

"As far as back in February, we knew that there might be disruptions to our concert schedule. In anticipation, we initiated a digital recording process that would prepare our students for this," shares Mr. Salminen. He admits that he initially did not realize how difficult it would be to create these virtual performances. 

Luckily, students were already accustomed to using Smartmusic in class for computer-generated recording and assessment. With features like immediate feedback, practice tools, and online repertoires, Smartmusic allowed Mr. Salminen to start preparations quickly.

To help students get used to how closely they would need to follow the recordings in the virtual concert, Mr. Salminen asked students to choose an online accompaniment via Smartmusic, which they would perform for peers in a "virtual recital" on Google Meet, after a week of practicing. 

Next, students were given engaging and challenging pieces of music with on-screen notation and music that they would be able to follow. "Arabian Dreams" by composer Soon Hee Newbold, was chosen for the Orchestra, and the Concert Band students began to work on "We Meet Again" by composer Sam Hazo. 

Following the tempo and recording exactly, required a lot of practice; even the slightest inconsistencies required re-takes. Despite the challenge of getting it exactly right, while balancing band or orchestra practice with all of the other virtual school assignments, all of the students were ready to submit their parts after just two weeks. 

Now came time for the mixing, a process by where all of the individual parts are assembled. Mixing is a complicated process under any circumstances, but even more so when you have to join several people's recordings from different environments, using various qualities of recording equipment.

To make it all come together, Mr. Salminen enlisted the Head of Production Services at Frost School of Music, University of Miami, Mr. Dana Salminen, who also happens to be his son. Through an elaborate, painstaking four-step process for each track, Mr. Salminen, the younger, stitched the students' performances together seamlessly. "I am so thankful to him for giving up his valuable time and expertise to help our students and our school," says SSIS High School Music teacher, Mr. Salminen.

And we, too, are grateful to our students and the Misters Salminen as we can now lean back and appreciate the sound of the students performing such beautiful music together*, while apart, and the dedication that it took from everyone to make it happen. Thank you!

*All images in the videos are taken from the Winter Concert in November 2019. The music, however, is the result of the online collaboration as described in the article.

Author: Tanya Olander
Communications Officer


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