Orchestra Continues During the Virtual Winter
After a term of outdoor rehearsals, plexi-glass dividers, and presenter microphones, the Music Department has taken yet another creative approach to ensemble rehearsals during the online Winter Term.
After a term of outdoor rehearsals, plexi-glass dividers, and presenter microphones, the Music Department has taken yet another creative approach to ensemble rehearsals during the online Winter Term. The department has been experimenting with various ways to practice as a group from remote learning locations at home. Playing together directly on Zoom has thus far been unsuccessful due to a constant lag in sound. Orchestra rehearsal requires the audio to be perfectly in-time, and although lagging on Zoom is, according to Chair of Performing Arts Keith Roeckle, "measured in milliseconds," the slight delay still greatly impacts musicians.
Most recently, the orchestra has been using a new piece of technology called JackTrip, a system for high-quality audio network performance over the internet. While JackTrips only transmit audio, in doing so, the program minimizes the lag time to make real-time rehearsal a possibility.
"It's a transmission and a receiving audio device. All the audio is collected and sent to a central server, in northern Virginia, and then it gets put into one audio channel before being sent back to everybody so that everyone hears the final mix in real-time," Roeckle said. The orchestra uses JackTrips simultaneously with Zoom.
During their first rehearsal, a total of 18 people were able to participate and successfully play in sync with one another. Other students, those who did not receive JackTrips, followed along on Zoom and played on their own, but a second order of Jacktrips has been placed to allow more students to join in without a problem. Though the system has been a success for many, rehearsal is still a challenge for international students and those living further away from campus, as the audio transmission is restricted to a 350 to 400-mile radius. However, Roeckle plans to continue implementing this system during the Spring Term when students return to campus, particularly during the two-week quarantine period before hybrid classes begin. During this time, those who previously didn't have access to JackTrips will have access to the program.
Reflecting on her experience with the JackTrip, violist Kate Dillard '22 said, "Despite a few little connection problems and some microphone issues, it went much better than expected. The latency, or the lag, is not really a problem at all. With JackTrip, it went very smoothly and we were able to play through quite a bit of songs."
Orchestra members are incredibly hopeful about the continuation of rehearsals, as Ashley Lee '23, a cellist, commented: "I am looking forward to seeing everything continue to come together this term in Orchestra!"
With rehearsals taking place every Tuesday evening, Roeckle hopes to continue to experiment with some unique features of JackTrip to improve the experiences of Lawrentians in the orchestra.
"There's a mixing function deep in the server that I have not played with," he said. "Right now I just set everyone at a generic volume, but something I want to look into is this function that makes some instruments sound louder in the tape than others." These specialized functions will allow the conductor to manually alter and enhance the sound produced.
Roeckle also anticipates hosting an open Zoom meeting in the future for students to observe the orchestra rehearsals once everyone is "fluent and comfortable with the technology."
"To be able to play on the exact beat of a song or know that I am in harmony with a player hundreds of miles away has made the experience an extremely positive one," flute player Layla Shaffer '22 reflected. "It has definitely transformed online musical learning given that we can still continue our work even when we are all remote."