Music Concerts In Full Swing


Whitefish Bay High School Orchestra students playing in the Music For Munchkins concert video

Anavi Prakash, Reporter

Since the new year has begun, the Music Department has released two virtual concerts. The first was the choir program’s winter concert, a virtual album full of festive songs. The second was the orchestra’s Music For Munchkins concert (an event that has dated back to 1994) put together in video format. 

For their album, the choir program utilized the virtual tools they have been using since the beginning of the year; namely SoundTrap, a software that allows everyone to collaborate on the same track. Senior Miranda Lile enjoyed using SoundTrap, because as a fully virtual student, “it’s hard to be motivated to learn and record for choir…but using SoundTrap, it’s cool to record your part and immediately be able to hear a finished product with everyone else.” Also an admirer of how things went, sophomore Andie Andraca said her “…experience doing it was a lot easier than I thought it would be [because] Mr. Johnston [the choir director] would make recordings and set it up [so] it was super easy to go in and record our parts.”
However, not all experiences were as easy. Freshman Elle Rymer explained how “There were some difficulties with getting everything to work… from getting things recorded to lining everything up, it was just a huge mess.” But in the end, “…it was a very fun experience… and it was interesting [to see] how much independence everyone gained from singing individually.” Senior Oscar Gregg had a similar experience, because even though it was “…an experience I’m pretty glad to have under my belt, there was a lot of struggle to get all members to blend well and stay in unison…. Eventually we gained our footing and learned an effective workflow. I’m quite proud of the final product. I think that considering the circumstances we find ourselves in, it’s a project that all choir members can look very fondly upon.” 

Closely following behind the choir, the orchestra continued their video concert streak, the Music For Munchkins video being their second after Super Massive Black Hole, which was released in first semester. Even just the opportunity to have the concert made several students happy, like sophomore Mae Jones, who said she “…was really happy that we were able to figure out how to do it this year with COVID. We had to face the challenge of figuring out how to film the acting scenes and all of the music parts when we couldn’t be together on a stage. [But in the end], the show turned out really well and I’m super excited for everyone to see it!” The overall process as senior Ash Ahrenhoerster put it “… was definitely unusual. It was very individual, and very quick–I think we maybe spent a total of an hour rehearsing together and recording, if even that long.” Although it was a quick turnaround, they “…think that [it] almost fit the nature of Music for Munchkins. It’s always reminded me of those nonsense games you’d make up with your friends when you were six years old, in [the sense] that it doesn’t really make sense but it’s fun all the same.” Ash was also involved in the skit, a traditional aspect for all the kids who watch the concert. This year it was a group of pirates trying to find the violin that makes gold, the ‘gold’ referring to music. To film the scenes, Zoom was utilized as the recording medium, and as Ash put it, “…we’ve all grown pretty comfortable with Zoom. Obviously it’s cheesy and all that, but that’s how Music for Munchkins is supposed to be: a goofy little show for kids. I think it was really cool to be able to continue putting that out for the kids in the community.” Although the skit is a huge part of the concert, some people, like sophomore Reese Cottrill, liked the virtual way better, because it “…enabled the orchestra to be in the spotlight rather than a backdrop to the entire production.” Nonetheless, he still enjoyed the childish aspect of it, agreeing with Ash, saying “The final product captured the cheesiness inherent in all of the prior Music for Munchkins, while [also] taking advantage of its digital nature to provide us with a feature reminiscent of an Indy television series.” The actual music part of the concert was done using the app Upbeat Music, which as junior Lydia Lancina put it, “…lets you watch the conductor and hear a recording of the in class orchestra while you play your individual recording. It feels like you are with everyone else, even from home. After months of feeling disconnected [due to being fully virtual], it was pretty spectacular to feel like I was there in the class with everyone else!” As a whole, having Music For Munchkins was not only a way for students to enjoy playing for an audience, but also allowed students who didn’t usually get as much live interaction with the orchestra to connect with their fellow musicians on a different level. As sophomore Sira Maul put it, “…overall, it was pretty fun, and a unique spin on the Music for Munchkins tradition. Thanks to Mr. Petersen for taking it on this year!”

Although the process was not the ideal one would have in a ‘normal’ year, there are benefits to having virtual concerts and albums. As Miranda Lile pointed out, “the best part of the final product…was the ability to share it with grandparents and relatives that wouldn’t normally get to hear it, and who we aren’t able to see right now.” Moreover, Lydia Lancina said although “there is no replacing the whole orchestra playing for a full auditorium, all things considered, Music For Munchkins was the closest thing I have felt to a real concert or performance since last March.” Having concerts even during times where people don’t know what’s going to happen next is important. Not only does it increase students’ sense of belonging, something very important this year, but it also helps students connect with family they don’t get to see because of the pandemic.

Moreover, virtual concerts are creating a new way of performing, because they’re following the ‘on-demand’ path set by TV and movie streaming services. Most profoundly, this is happening on a local scale, increasing their impact on the community as well.