The virtual orchestra for Christmas?

So the question at the end of 2020 is “Christmas will you stay?”  Meaning, Can we keep the spirit of this season going forward with us into 2021?  This year we definitely need to create and maintain this sense of new hope.

This fall has been a crisis in the Arts with so many shutdowns and venues unable or more to the point unwilling to host arts groups even with safe practices. Bars and restaurants with random people in them unmasked are open each day but performing arts groups where everyone is far apart masked and air kept circulated with open doors and fans circulating fresh air is felt to be unsafe? 

After the Shutdown in November, I was quite disheartened by it all. I decided we had to do another virtual project. I wanted to do something new and more contemporary in holiday music this year. I chose this new modern classic by Michael Mott to orchestrate and created a virtual ensemble recording with the Richmond Delta Youth Orchestra.

Thanks to Michael for his support in doing this, and for Monica Tamm for signing so beautifully for us. 

“Christmas will you Stay?”
The Richmond Delta Youth Orchestra with Monica Tamm.

December 25th, 2020″

This year for Cultural Days 2020 the youth orchestra was not able to participate in ways that we normally would due to the pandemic. Normally we would be running “orchestral instrument petting zoos” and “open rehearsals” where the public can come and see firsthand what we are doing.

We did a couple of new things this year, we created a series or videos entitles “Meet the Musicians” that featured a few of our orchestra students introducing themselves and showing their instrument to us.  Also for Richmond Cultural Alliance, we created a short playlist of some of our archived concerts that appear online on our YouTube channel.  Check these out on the Richmond Delta Youth Orchestra YouTube channel.



With the current COVID-19 pandemic, my youth orchestra program has been severely affected. Our normal concert and rehearsal schedule ended after Spring Break in mid-March. For the rehearsal period from April through to June, we kept going virtually with moving rehearsals and meetings with students to the Zoom platform.  The new buzz words for me this term are “asynchronous learning”, new software experiences with “Zoom”, “Loom”, “loopback” and other devices to integrate external mics and various apps together into the whole new online learning experience.  
My main project with Richmond Delta Youth Orchestra was this virtual orchestra version of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”.  I will be sharing all the materials necessary to do this and put it together on my site here over the next few weeks.   Watch the video below.

The Ode to Joy Project 

I created the base parts first through public domain parts available at IMSLP.  I customized them to reflect the recording I would be doing. 

I then created bedding tracks and additional parts in Finale and Logic Pro X.  These were used to help the musicians learn the parts and eventually record them. 

Links to the files needed to create your own Ode to Joy Project

I was interviewed by Steve Dotto earlier this year about the transition to online teaching that many of us private music teachers have been working through for the past few months. It certainly has been an interesting time with challenges. I am happy to report though that most of my students have made the transition to online learning, and for the vast majority of my students, their musical skills and understanding have kept growing and maturing over the past few months.

Indeed for those that have the means and access to technology, online learning is not a hindrance; rather it has proven to be quite the opposite.