Lou Kitchner, director of the seventh grade Bedford Middle School band, provided this background to the making of Westport’s “Virtual” Memorial Day Parade:
Due to the COVID-19 school closure, Westport students have been unable to participate in the traditional school experiences that have been a significant part of their daily activities.
One of the many common school experiences that has been affected by the sudden switch to distance learning is the ability for them to make music with their peers in their weekly music classes.
In an effort to address this problem, and also honor the many Westport fallen heroes, veterans and first responders, the Westport Public Schools 6-12 grade band directors embarked on a project to create a “virtual” Memorial Day Parade band performance.
Even though the parade was technically canceled this year due to the virus, the need for this musical performance became more important than ever before.
For this reason, Westport music teachers James Forgey, Lou Kitchner, Gregg Winters, and Phil Giampietro decided to find a way for students to share their musical talents by creating a digital performance of their annual Memorial Day parade arrangement.
The band directors created and posted a play along audio track that featured an embedded metronome click on their class Schoology websites. Students were then encouraged to practice their individual parts by playing along with this audio accompaniment.
After a week or two of practice, the students each recorded their individual performances, in a similar manner as a professional studio musician might do, only using whatever technology they had available to them (a desktop computer, Chromebook, laptop, tablet, or smartphone).
Over 155 individual student submissions were then imported into multitrack music software by the teachers, aligned and edited in time with the song’s tempo, and mixed down into a single ensemble performance track.
These individual ensemble mixes (6th, 7th, 8th, and the combined SHS bands) were then combined into one complete grade 6-12 performance.
To compliment the sound of this performance, the band directors also requested students to submit a photo of themselves holding or performing their instrument in school or town related attire if possible (since the closure prevented the opportunity to access uniforms or school-specific parade T-shirts).
Staples High School media teacher Geno Heiter then spent hours merging all the photos with the final ensemble mix to create the culminating product, a “virtual” Memorial Day parade.