Jazz jamming is St Andrew's jam

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‘Making music together’ has always been the mantra for St Andrew’s music students, who recently came together online to record a jazz favourite for a special video project

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‘Making music together’ has always been the mantra for music students at St Andrew’s Anglican College, who recently came together online to record a jazz favourite for a special video project.

Physical distancing and a shift to online learning hasn’t changed this mantra, with students and staff at the Peregian Springs school recently releasing a video in a unique jazz collaboration.

With the uncertainty of the weeks and months ahead and having to postpone all planned rehearsals and performances, music students and staff at St Andrew’s were determined to pursue business as usual.

After individual music lessons moved online in early February, Years 7 to 12 Jazz Orchestra members were quick to take up the opportunity to move their entire weekly rehearsal live and online.

In a musical twist on the current ‘Zoom meeting’ trend, Jazz Orchestra Director Mr Andrew Eunson stood in a room by himself, conducting to 26 tiny blocks on a screen.

Setting the meeting up and getting together were the simple parts – rehearsing and recording the ensemble live in an online environment proved more difficult, with a few technological challenges to overcome.

An issue of different internet connections, which delayed what students could hear and see, was an inevitable challenge, as well as the varying devices and quality of equipment being used.

At the conclusion of the live joint rehearsal, each student also recorded individual performances of the song ‘Feeling Good’. These recordings were then put together by the College’s audio-visual engineer to create a music clip unlike any ever previously produced by the College.

“When society goes through challenges like these, it’s important to find the opportunity to learn,” Mr Eunson said.

“We live in a technological world where borders mean nothing today. I say this because, as musicians, we collaborate with many people and while the norm is to do this together in person, my aim here was to demonstrate to our students first hand that they should not be limited to this only.

“Students need motivation to practise. This project created the motivation the students needed to securely ‘hold’ their part without the support of others. Something we talk about a lot as ensemble directors, but rarely get to practise.”

The orchestra’s students resiliently helped navigate the way through the logistical issues and are grateful for the opportunity to continue practising together.

Year 12 orchestra member Avana said that while she misses seeing her school friends in person daily, the Zoom rehearsals and the ‘Feeling Good’ project have helped keep her engaged.

“Band is such a big part of my life and who I am – it is pretty much a second family, and not being able to see them every morning has been hard to come to terms with,” Avana said.

“It was a bit odd at the start, but once you settle in…it is a lot of fun operating through Zoom.

“It’s been a great way in keeping us creative and engaged. Without the online rehearsals and the video project the isolation would have been a lot harder.”

Despite the amount of effort it took in setting up, Mr Eunson said the experience it provided for the students to connect at this time was invaluable.

“The bonds these students have with each other have been created over many years, and for our older students are something that is incredibly important and valued,” he said.

“It was evident within a few minutes of the online rehearsal that the students were just as keen to say ‘hi’ and banter with each other as they were to rehearse.

With physical distancing measures unlikely to ease in the near future, Mr Eunson was positive about using the opportunity to think creatively.

“Term 2 will bring a number of additional exciting opportunities for music students at the College, and I’m really looking forward to extending the group’s creative expertise through this ongoing experience,” he said.

The Jazz Orchestra is one of three Jazz Stage Bands in operation at the College, normally rehearsing 80 minutes per week playing jazz, funk, and blues style music.

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