Digital Spring Concert 1
June 2020

The Show Must Go On


Digital Spring Concert 1Like most schools, the Kirby School campus in Santa Cruz is normally a hive of activity during spring semester. Now classrooms once filled with pre-finals jitters and the pomp of closing weeks of school are still. The school is COVID quiet — except for one room.

Our Choral and Instrumental Directors, Alex Koppel and Ricardo Anzaldo — wearing masks and with at least 6’ in between one another — are busily redesigning the recording studio to produce a socially-distant Digital Spring Concert.

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Historically, Kirby’s Spring Music Concert is an annual celebration; a pageant of talent and hard work. It includes a special tribute to our music program’s graduating seniors, an opportunity for them to take a final bow.

It would have taken place last week, as it has for nearly a decade, to what would have likely been a standing-room-only audience at the acoustically-endowed Peace United Church on High Street.

This year, given the Shelter in Place order, the concert is being completely redesigned. In going digital, the whole event will be rehearsed, produced and performed from the individual residences of each of our students, and viewed from our audience’s homes.

While it may sound like an isolating experience, it is not. It brings us together. It helps us maintain our traditions while activating our creativity and fueling our capacity to innovate.

The shift in format however is proving to be more complex than producing a 2-hour in-person performance. A digital performance is a very different undertaking, as Mr. Koppel and Mr. Anzaldo have found. Yet their vision is to bring it to fruition by the end of the school year — an effort made poignant because this is the last project our beloved faculty member, Alex Koppel, will undertake at Kirby School. He’s off to pursue his doctorate in music in Indiana.

There are three distinct phases of the project. Pre-production involves creating fundamental music recordings such as a jazz track (bass, drums and piano) in the recording studio. Mr. Koppel and Mr. Anzaldo recorded themselves playing each instrument. They also taped orchestral and choral “virtual conductor” tracks for students to watch while they perform, to help them keep time. The production phase is when these foundational recordings are distributed to students to record their own single track. Students listen to, rehearse with and perform in front of these at home. Afterwards, each student’s single track is returned to the studio and assembled together into one master presentation; the post-production phase. The final performance will be aired live over Zoom in early June.

As schools across the United States scramble to recreate ways to honor their traditions and celebrate their students’ accomplishments, it is exciting to see bright new ideas bubble forth from the darkness, reminding us that we are all in this together.

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