The 2019-20 Blinn College band gives one final performance thanks to a bit of digital wizardry

Band Director Sarah Burke uses technology to coordinate the Wind Symphony’s virtual performance of 'Shenandoah'

May 4, 2020

Even a global pandemic could not stop the Blinn College band’s talented students from making music together.

Dr. Sarah Burke, Director of Bands, started a virtual band project shortly after Blinn discontinued face-to-face classes in March and moved to a totally online format as a health and safety precaution.

“I was searching for ways for our band to play together again even though we couldn’t physically be in the same room anymore,” Burke said. “We’ve all been on online meetings with multiple people talking over one another due to a lag in the connection. There isn’t a great solution to playing together online at the same time.”

Instead, Burke created a play-along track of “Shenandoah” for members of the band’s wind symphony to listen to while members recorded individual parts of the song.

“This track helped students stay together even though we couldn’t all play live,” Burke said. “Each student then recorded their individual parts and sent them to me.”

Burke spent hours separating the audio and lining up each segment.

“Once the audio sounded like a band, I set about working up a video. Again, the video from each student had to be synced up and multiple video files were layered on top of each other to create a grid view,” she said.

The resulting video, just over five minutes long, can be found at www.blinn.edu/music and on Blinn’s YouTube page at www.youtube.com/Blinn1883/videos. The virtual concert has been shared on Blinn’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, and as of Monday, May 4, had more than 650 views.

“We’re all saddened that we can’t play together, and nothing really replaces the feel and sound of a live concert,” Burke said, “but it was my hope that this project gave each student a sense of community and a true product that they can share from this abnormal semester.”

Darrell Lewis, a sophomore music major and president of Blinn’s Kappa Kappa Psi band fraternity, said Burke’s effort is appreciated.

“Thanks to Dr. Burke, we got to have that ‘one more time,’” he said. “Hearing the piece on YouTube brings me to tears when I think about the individuals in the video. The video really does a good job for helping me remember what it feels like to be a part of the Blinn band community.”

Lewis, a flute player who earned a spot on the Texas Community College Band Directors Association (TCCBDA) All-State Band in February, also thanked Burke “for believing in me and my skills as a musician.”

“I’ve been truly blessed to be taught by such amazing and talented people,” he said.

Fellow TCCBDA All-State Band selection Mason Taylor, a French horn player, said the Blinn band was like a second home to him.

“Because of Dr. Burke’s determination, she created an amazing video that shows not only us playing, but being a team and sticking together even through hard times,” he said.

For more information about the Blinn Music Department, including auditions for the Fall 2020 semester, visit www.blinn.edu/music. Registration is now open for the May Minimester, Summer, and Fall terms.

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