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Saturday, June 19, 2021
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COVID-19 has allowed musicians to turn to new, creative outlets and unique ensemble options. 

The show must go on: UW-Madison classical musicians turn to technology

As people continue to become more accustomed with working during the pandemic, musicians have started to experiment with technology and find new ways to collaborate with one another. While the process has not been easy, there are positives to these changes.

Playing Together

Performing in traditional large ensembles, such as a full orchestra and wind ensemble, was not an option once COVID-19 hit. Different forms of music have stricter requirements for social distance and prove to be a difficult adjustment. Woodwinds and brass players are not able to meet in-person because wearing a mask when playing is not possible. For string players, they’re able to meet because wearing a mask and maintaining a fair distance is a viable option. 

Those that can’t meet in person form smaller chamber ensembles such as trios and duets. These groups have been recording their parts separately and then editing them on top of each other to sound as if they were recorded together. This requires knowledge in audio editing and software. 

Most music students when coming into UW-Madison are not knowledgeable in this having it be a learning curve for everyone, teachers included. These obstacles have proved to be a learning experience for everyone and multiple recordings are made to match playing styles and intonation of the entire small ensemble. 

Master Classes

Throughout the Fall semester, each instrument studio held a master class, where the professor taught and invited professional musicians and professors from other universities to teach students, as well. Before COVID-19, the guest would have to fly into Madison. This meant if their schedule did not permit the travel, they would have to politely decline. Now, because most master classes are online, the guests can teach over Zoom. COVID-19 has allowed music students the opportunity to learn from more professionals around the world, due to the adaptation of online learning. 

Performances

Despite the unprecedented reality of canceling all in-person performances, UW-Madison has found ways to keep the spirit alive. The Mead Witter School of Music website and Facebook page are updated regularly with live performances of the musicians through YouTube or Facebook live. The musician performs at the Hamel Center alone, while being recorded and available to anyone across the country, who can watch and comment as if they were there. 

This method of performances, although not normal, can be seen as a positive outlook of COVID. People from all around can now have a chance to watch their friends and loved ones perform. UW-Madison musicians are being recorded by professional sound engineers, which is a first for most of the students and is an opportunity in itself. 

COVID-19 has forced all of UW-Madison to reconsider the ways that students interact with their material. As musicians both in-school and out press pause on playing sold-out shows to a packed house, UW-Madison students are rising to the challenge and realizing that that the show must go on. 

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