5 Successful Virtual Music Ensembles

 Even during the hardships of the pandemic, many innovative educators discovered new ways to use Soundtrap with their students, including to teach, record and mix elaborate ensemble work. What began as a major challenge turned into a variety of compelling new opportunities for students, whose experience with online learning transformed from practice sessions all the way to full-blown concert performances. Here are five success stories that highlight educators’ and students’ ingenuity at work. 

Taking Marching Band Virtual in Missouri

Dr. Alex Smith, Assistant Professor of Percussion at the University of Central Missouri (UCM), found a virtual solution to music rehearsal and composition during the throes of the pandemic. He created a hybrid recording method through Soundtrap that used available breakout rooms provided by Zoom. “Often, we would rehearse with Zoom for a while, then go into Soundtrap to record and hear it all together,” said Smith. “It’s also possible for everyone to record at the same time in Soundtrap while monitoring the strongest central player over Zoom; this helps to make everyone play a little more together.”

Students did a creative composition project with two-hour team-building sessions in the evenings, in which they worked in small groups to write whatever came to mind. The creative exercise allowed the musicians to learn their way around the program. It resulted in a YouTube video highlighting five tunes the students wrote during the second block.

The success of the hybrid model has led to continued projects, including percussion and poetry students working together to produce poetry-informed music/music-informed poems, using Zoom and Soundtrap to produce their work.

Read more: Soundtrap with Zoom to Take Marching Band Virtual

Virginia Students Succeed with Remote Choir Showcase

Kelli Pierson is a music teacher at George C. Marshall High School, a part of Virginia’s Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS). Pierson, whose focus is on choir, used Soundtrap to transform her choir class into a successful virtual experience during remote learning, allowing recording in small chunks with editing capabilities. “You can work with the practice track,” she says. “Matching your sound to it as a way to grade yourself before you hit save.” 

Pierson invited kids to the Soundtrap Collaboration page, teaching them to record themselves against pre-loaded practice tracks. “By the end of class, I could play back up to 30 voices with some minimal lining up of parts and hear how they were doing. It was incredible!”

She created different collaboration pages for five ensembles, where each choir recorded up to six songs. It resulted in a Fall Virtual Choir Showcase and Spring Broadway Musical where students put together 14 different ensemble songs. Moving ahead she plans on adding a music technology/recording class that gets into the nitty-gritty details of Soundtrap editing.

Read more: Choir From Traditional to Tech-Enabled

Choir Turns Virtual in the Bronx

Travis Washington teaches Choir and the Young Vocal Scholars Program at P.S. 072, Dr. William Dorney, in the Bronx, N.Y. When school closures occurred, he adapted to virtual learning, discovering that online learning options such as Soundtrap could extend in class projects but also expand music education in many ways.

Washington began the choir remotely even with some students who weren’t being served music at all. To his surprise, he discovered there were far more students interested in music who now had access to laptops at home. Students used the collaborative features in Soundtrap to collaborate in real-time. Astonishingly, Washington was able to do more instruction virtually with Soundtrap than with his in-class learning with students engaged in the creative process, logging more work hours than they did during the regular school year.

Soundtrap revolutionized Washington’s classroom in a virtual setting that provided a variety of fully produced projects highlighting student creation and enthusiasm.

Read more: Music Creation from Students’ Homes During Pandemic

Introducing Los Angeles Students to Music Professions 

Justin Polk is a music educator at Arleta High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), with a strong background in band class. Polk used Soundtrap to expand the offerings inside his class and helped students explore a variety of music professions, such as Foley recording, film scoring, and jingle making. The process led students to create projects on their own, using Soundtrap to expand their recording skills, playing with beats and recording vocals. “We mixed up songs and made them our own, writing descriptions about the type of video and what you put with the sound. We found ways to make it relatable but also educational.”

Remarkably, his more traditional band students also entered the mix using the same methods of recording learned in the music profession exploration to produce a virtual ensemble using Soundtrap to sync up the audio―balanced, exported, and attached to a video.

Read more: How LAUSD Students Became Jingle-Makers and More

A Global Virtual Ensemble Opportunity with Soundtrap Anthem

Soundtrap for education announced the release of the first ever Soundtrap Anthem, titled “We Make Our World,” a global virtual ensemble written for full orchestra, chorus, and modern band instrumentation. The Soundtrap Anthem is an all-new virtual ensemble opportunity for Soundtrap users to participate and play a piece of music together. This collaborative effort with the Soundtrap global community allows for the downloading of all parts to share with ensembles in schools. All students can participate and all instruments are welcome.

Much like many other virtual ensembles, there is a PDF score that contains the instrumental parts. There is no need to write any parts, only learning and recording. Sign up here to receive all the instructions, score, parts, PDFs and resources needed for recording.

Submissions from individuals and ensembles continue until February 1st, 2022. Individual submissions are very much welcome, but music teachers are encouraged to record the piece with their ensembles. After February 1st, all the audio and video recordings will be assembled into a beautiful video featuring our community playing “We Make Our World” together.

If you are interested in participating, please sign up to stay in the loop with any updates about this project.

Read more: The Soundtrap Anthem: A global virtual ensemble