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Awards ceremony sees students performing arts online


University of Wolverhampton music students hit the right note when they played a virtual set at the organisation’s online Annual Staff Awards recently.

The Undergraduate and Master’s degree students performed and recorded their performances separately at home to a click and guide track. Break My Heart – Lockdown Cover, was arranged by AJProductions, a live music entertainment company which was set up by Alexander Robottom and Joe Geoghan, School of Performing Arts Senior Technician, at the beginning of 2020.

The performance video was played at the University’s awards ceremony which was live-streamed on YouTube and watched by over 500 staff.

The virtual band included Nick Allen, keys and vocals, studying for a degree in Popular Music, Georgia Burgess, saxophone, studying for a Master’s degree in Music, Scarlett Churchill, drums, also studying for a Master’s degree in Music, Jake Mason, bass, studying for a Master’s degree in Audio Technology and Joe Geoghan, guitar, Senior School of Performing Arts Technician.

The students are all studying in the School of Performing Arts at the University’s Walsall Campus.

Joe said: “The hardest part of producing music over lockdown was overcoming the lack of human interaction. In a studio you are sat at the console and you can keep going over parts until they are correct and bounce ideas over each other. It’s a lot harder to do this over Zoom or Teams, as whoever is recording their take would have to send you the video/audio before you could write back with suggestions.

“Once I had a finished version this had to be uploaded and shared, then note any changes Alex had suggested, and re-edit, re-upload and the cycle continued. In the studio you have access to plenty of microphones, amps and treated rooms, whereas at home people don’t have all the necessary equipment.

“I think everyone did such an amazing job with what they had and it was an amazing performance. In terms of putting together a track, there is a guide track which everyone records their part to - it’s usually a piano and click track. Each member then sends their part and video to me which then gets mixed and synced up with the video. It’s fairly similar to editing pre-Covid-19 except I’m just receiving the media from a One-drive, rather than transferring from a camera.”

Jake said: “After performing at a number of University events throughout my studies, it’s always a pleasure to be involved in another one - even though it was just virtually! AJ Music has some amazingly talented musicians and it’s a pleasure to play alongside them.  I’m looking forward to getting more performances booked when we can eventually do that. 

“I plan to teach Sixth Form or at a University in the near future, and the collaboration between different courses in the School of Performing Arts has shown me how successful a department can be.

“Switching to online learning for the end of my Undergraduate Degree was a bit difficult to get used to but having lecturers that were easily contactable by email or a Skype call helped me get the First that I deserved.”

Dr Sarah Browne, Head of the School of Performing Arts at the University, said: “Without a doubt the School has had to adapt through lockdown by the inventive use of audio and video software. We are now offering limited face-to-face teaching classes and the Performance Hub is open with restrictions in place.

“Instrumental sessions have continued throughout this period and staff have ensured that all students have still performed in some form. We have run instrumental ensembles, vocal ensembles, acting sessions, and solo instrumental/vocal sessions remotely and these have been really successful. Academics have had to work really hard to make this technology work to ensure students can still perform and still feel a part of the school community.

“Our focus as a University is very much on keeping the arts alive and our Performing Arts students have shown over the past few months how they have been able to adapt to providing online theatre and music performances and we will continue to build on this innovation and protect our arts provision in the region and further afield."

The student performance can be viewed on YouTube. Anyone interested in studying at the School of Performing Arts should register for the next virtual Open Day.

Picture caption: Bassist Jacob Mason


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