Otterbein Virtual Showcase Forges New Skills for Music Students

Posted Oct 22, 2020

For the last seven years, performers in Otterbein’s various musical ensembles have taken part in the Fall Collage concert, showcasing their talents at the end of fall semester. Due to COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings, including performance rehearsals, the Department of Music had to get creative.  

“We saw the need to still give our students a place to highlight their accomplishments at the end of the semester as we’ve always done,” said Dennis Davenport, chair of the Department of Music. “We began brainstorming and quickly saw how we had the unique opportunity to produce an inter-departmental program that can help students expand their skills even further than just playing a live concert. Thus, ‘Making Connections’ was born.”  

“Making Connections: Music, Art and the Humanities in a Virtual Community” is a virtual cross-curricular departmental showcase. It will premiere on Otterbein’s YouTube channel at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 25, and the recording will be available after the performance.  

The repertoire performed in the “Making Connections” video parallels content that is being taught in academic courses in the Music, Art and English departments this semester. Audiences enjoying the showcase video can access additional content, including a variety of student research and student projects, all centered on the music of the Baroque and Classical periods of music and art.   

The intent of the “Making Connections” project is to build relationships between departments with the hope that bridging the gap between academic and performance projects will create deeper understandings for students. 

In a time of disconnection, said Davenport, “Making Connections” provides a new digital platform for Otterbein’s choirs, opera, wind and string orchestras to perform for a farther-reaching audience than in year’s past.  

Part-time Music Faculty Eric Van Wagner began by the process of creating the showcase by teaching the student musicians how to record themselves playing their ensemble’s chosen piece.  

Namakydoost recording
Lydia Namakydoost ’22 prepares to record her bass parts for Making Connections.

“Making Connections” provides a technical training opportunity student performers don’t often receive. As part of the recording process, performers began small with recording themselves playing a scale to a metronome, gradually building up to playing their entire part of the concert. Through various attempts with oversight from faculty and staff, students created a polished, ready-to-upload selection.  

Bassist Lydia Namakydoost ’22 appreciated how she’s been able to add to her musical toolkit. 

“This is the way of the world going forward for musicians — having to record ourselves for auditions, gigs and personal critiques on how we play. I, for one, never had any background in audio engineering until this semester and it’s been an intriguing process,” she said. “I’m excited to see the final performance come together.” 

Tony Hagood serves as staff accompanist at Otterbein. Because of COVID, he went from playing almost 250 performances a year to almost none. “Making Connections” provided an opportunity for him to continue working amid the pandemic and to help put his digital editing expertise to use. 

Making Connections recording

“I began by assisting Concert Choir and Opera with the learning curve for recording themselves via the online software. Once everyone became more and more comfortable with the technical process, I turned my attention to gathering the Concert Choir and Opera clips to create a final production to show at the premiere,” Hagood said. 

Davenport, Hagood and Namakydoost all agree the skills that students, faculty and staff are honing with the online delivery of a cohesive concert will be beneficial for years to come.  

Technical knowledge aside, “Making Connections” does exactly what the title promises: it brings together disjointed areas and transforms them into something larger than any one area alone. 

“Even within our own department, we still fall into siloed thinking and planning — separated, when we can accomplish more academically and emotionally together,” said Jim Bates, director of orchestral activities. “A show of this scale and nature makes us all feel part of a larger whole. Our students get to connect the dots with the material to the technical portion and us as faculty work alongside them to make those connections as strong as possible.” 

Making Connections: Music, Art and the Humanities in a Virtual Community, premieres at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25, on YouTube. The recording will be available after the premiere.