Arts

Student Music Recital Benefits from Virtual Setting Despite Losing the “Spontaneity” of Performing In-Person

 

Courtesy of Phillips Academy Music Department

As the cheerful piano duet of Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, K. 525” slowly crescendos, videos of its performers, Rachel Bong ’23 and Carol Tieppo ’24, appear side-by-side on the screen. Bong and Tieppo are among the group of students who performed at the virtual student recital held on January 27. As the organizer of the recital, Holly Barnes, Director of Performance, uploaded the final recording onto the Music Department’s YouTube channel, “Music at Andover”. 

“[For this recital], students make recordings, send them to me, and we just string them together into a YouTube video and make it look very polished. [Our YouTube channel] is a really nice place because we don’t have a lot of live performances, so it’s a really great place for students to have a chance to be heard,” said Barnes. 

In the past, the Music Department hosted multiple student recitals each term, allowing students to perform pieces of their choice in front of a live audience in the Timken Room of Graves Hall. However, this tradition has shifted to a virtual setting, which has resulted in a loss of the lively atmosphere which usually surrounds the performances, according to Barnes. 

“For musicians, there’s the beauty of being able to create in the moment and feel the electricity of the room when you go in­. Especially if you’re playing chamber music, that connection between one another in the moment, that spontaneity, it just can’t be created unless you’re in person. That’s the compelling reason to perform, to have that spontaneity. It’s a hard thing to give up, and you really can’t recreate it online,” said Barnes. 

During Fall Term, the restricted rehearsal spaces for in-person chamber groups limited practice opportunities, and difficulties also arose when remote learners could not rehearse synchronously over Zoom. According to Bong, one of the benefits of the new virtual format is allowing for more opportunities and accessibility to performers. 

“I think one of the upsides is that people who usually have performance anxiety can feel more comfortable signing up for this recital. The multi-take safety net enables them to shift their focus from avoiding mistakes to devoting themselves entirely to the music. I think this adds a new appeal to the student recital because it welcomes a wider range of performers,” said Bong. 

For Carolina Weatherall ’21, who performed Handel’s “Trio Sonata in G Minor, Op. 2, No. 6, HWV 391: I. Andante,” the virtual setting allowed her to share the performance with family members in different parts of the world, who would not be able to usually attend her recitals otherwise. Bong also expressed that the virtual recital can reach a more diverse audience unhindered by distance and time since the video will remain available on the YouTube channel.

“I think at the end of the day, these student recitals have never been about musical perfection. They are opportunities for you to celebrate your growth as a musician and allow your loved ones to accompany you on that journey,” Bong wrote in an email to The Phillipian

Moving forward, the Music Department hopes to continue hosting recitals and concerts virtually, potentially integrating hybrid watch parties and receptions. Barnes believes that in the long run, these virtual performances will allow the students to forge a deeper appreciation for producing music after such a long time away from synchronous playing. 

“Some of these things that we’re learning virtually, surprisingly enough, I think we will be able to carry over into next year. We can use the [technological knowledge we gained] to expand what we do in person. That’s the takeaway,” said Barnes.