SCOTTVILLE — Like many things, the performing arts have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
Ted Malt, director of performing arts and professor of music studies at West Shore Community College, set out to create projects that could keep musicians engaged and give participants something to be proud of, all while adhering to coronavirus safety guidelines and restrictions.
During the college’s board of trustees meeting on Dec. 21, Malt unveiled one of the ways he was able to do just that with a virtual choir and wind symphony concert presented as part of the WSCC Performing Arts Living Room Series.
“We succeeded in a virtual choir and wind symphony. This has been six months of trial and error with team research,” he said. “We were able to accomplish a goal of engaging WSCC, high school, middle school, elementary and community musicians right from their home using their cell phones.”
A total of 155 people submitted cell phone video of themselves playing instruments or singing. The wind symphony performed “Danse Bohemien” by Randall D. Standridge and the choir sang “Seasons of Love” from the musical “Rent.”
Submissions were made by WSCC, high school, junior high and elementary students, as well as community members. The end result can be viewed here.
Adam Knudsen, WSCC production manager, served as video producer of the virtual concert. He said getting the 155 submissions in sync was a daunting task.
“When they come to us they’re all different lengths and they all have different starting points, so we realign all of the video,” he said. “Then we take all of the audio, extract it from the video, mix it into what you hear — the band — and then take that whole mix and put that back into the video. It’s a pretty cool process.”
Kevin DePree, a music producer and friend of Malt’s who lives in Los Angeles, mixed the audio for the project.
“Kudos to Ted Malt and all of his team,” said board trustee Richard Wilson. “I was trying to count the number of individual sound tracks they would have had to have reduced down into a stereo mix, and I lost track at about 50. There was some technical acumen there that I think makes West Shore Community College proud.”
Knudsen said he and Malt wasted no time at the start of the pandemic in devising ways for those in the performing arts to continue to do what they love.
“Ted and I started communicating in April right away when this was going on. ‘What is our plan? How do we stay relevant?’” he said. “We came up with some pretty ambitious goals and we’ve achieved those. It was really neat. It’s interesting, because the technology is literally evolving because there’s a necessity now that never was there before.
“Pretty much, we’ve kind of constantly been trying to grab the new technology to make what we’re doing somewhat easier.”
Knudsen said the college was in uncharted waters putting the project together, but it all came together in the end.
“The virtual choir and virtual band thing, there’s no tutorials on how to do that so we kind of invented that as we went. You can’t go to YouTube and find a video on how to do a virtual choir, so it was trial and error,” he said. “We made some errors, but the end product, after a lot of testing, we got to a point where we could put something together.”
Mark Kinney, WSCC vice president of academic and student services, praised the virtual concert.
“That’s just incredibly impressive what they’ve put together there,” he said. “And to think they got the audio from cell phones and managed to produce that — it’s world-class. Congratulations to them and thanks for their efforts.”
Malt said the performing arts would have struggled at the college without the help of the information technology department.
“A very special mention to Tim Fink, Tom Alway, Craig (Peterson) — the whole IT department. They have been phenomenal,” he said. “This has been a tough year, and I have inundated Tim Fink with questions on how to upload and what’s the best way to do this and he’s been back and forth, and also Tom on the academic side with Canvas — they’ve been great. So thank you to the whole IT department. You guys are awesome.”
Knudsen said he was grateful to the college for allowing the performing arts programs to continue to prosper despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.
“I truly appreciate President Ward, the administration, the board — just thanks for believing in us and allowing us to still create even in the pandemic,” he said. “My team is an awesome group of people — super talented and super creative. A lot of times we just try to reel each other in from getting too far out there, but we’ve kept that team in tact and that’s just really because all of you believe in us and we truly are thankful for that.”
Not another COVID-19 casualty, Performing Arts Living Room Series to debut
WSCC making alternate plans for performing arts groups