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Published October 19, 2020
COVID-19 has altered the way University of Wyoming Department of Music students perform for the public this semester.
One such group is the UW Jazz Ensemble, which is producing five videos instead of the usual live concert performances as in past years.
Last week, the 15 student musicians put together their first video on YouTube, performing the original composition and arrangement by jazz studies Associate Professor Ben Markley, titled “’Mon Back.”
“Over the summer, I decided that the UW Jazz Ensemble would record videos instead of giving performances,” Markley says. “With performance restrictions because of the pandemic, I thought this was the best course of action for the group and one that would offer some new experiences for our students. The students have bought in and are loving the process.”
He says the department purchased recording and video editing equipment through CARES Act funding. Because of COVID-19, all in-person rehearsals have been significantly limited for safety precautions. He says the new recording equipment allows students to record themselves safely in remote locations.
Students in this ensemble are learning to use recording software and equipment in a process called overdubbing. Each student is given a MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) recording of the tune being rehearsed. Students listen to the recording in headphones and record themselves playing. They record both audio and video of themselves, and then submit the files to Markley. He mixes and edits the audio, and then assembles the video.
“In a time that has proven difficult for everyone, the UW Jazz Ensemble students are creating work they can share with the world, while simultaneously learning about recording technology that will serve them in a variety of ways,” he adds.
Markley’s “’Mon Back,” from a previous recording on his latest album, “Slow Play,” was intended for his quartet. He adapted “’Mon Back” -- abbreviated for “Come on Back” -- and arranged the tune for a big-band instrumentation featuring 16 different musicians from across the nation.
That inspiration led the Ben Markley Big Band -- featuring musician friends Markley has known throughout his career -- to play different instruments on his original tune, all recorded from the band members’ home bases.
The successful video helped Markley shape his decision to apply that to his own jazz students.