East Orchestra Produces Unconventional Concert


East Senior Aidan Beane plays Sleigh Ride during class, while Mr. Hayden recorded both audio and video. Photo by Sophia Hardman

Maeve Kaufman and Audrey Catlin

The Wauwatosa East winter orchestra concert is an annual tradition that parents, staff and students look forward to every year. Sitting together in the auditorium, singing along with a medley of holiday music and eating cookies and punch in the learning center afterwards with friends and family usually mark the final festive days before winter break. This year, of course, is different. Instead of watching the concert in the auditorium, we will watch it on our computers. 

Orchestra director Micheal Hayden was determined to provide an opportunity for students playing to be heard this year and recorded students in a variety of settings and edited, produced and published a concert video. 

“There is a very rich, warm sound that comes from string playing.” said Hayden. 


Organizing the live annual winter concert required a lot of commitment from the teacher and the students. Creating and producing a video version of the concert had some different challenges. 


Because of the lack of in person class time, the official orchestra concert video consists of recordings or students playing in class, as well as individual video submissions from home. 


Hayden was also put to the test in creating the video, stating that “the most difficult thing for me has been the audio alignment…[as well] as the video alignment”. 


The process of creating the final video involved separating the audio and video files in order to edit them individually, and then editing them back together in the final cut. In the video, you will see individual orchestra students recordings of themselves arranged into a grid, which Hayden stated that it reminded him of a “stained glass window”. During some songs, you can also notice interesting backing tracks and sounds, as well as fun visual overlays.


Many students had difficulty with the technical side of the concert. Feelings of frustration and irritation were felt throughout grade levels when trying to film the individual video portion of the concert. 


“The orchestra video was difficult to film because it took lots of precision…we had to play to a backing track which sometimes made it difficult to hear and anticipate the next notes.” said Sophomore Greta Krueger. 


Hybrid learning divided our orchestra classes into separate sections in order to limit the amount of students in one space. Unfortunately, this also limited the large orchestra classes from playing and practicing together. 


“I miss making music with all of the orchestra students at one time” said Hayden. 


Hayden referenced the emphasis on learning outside of the classroom during our asynchronous time. This is when students are responsible for practicing the winter concert songs during their asynchronous time to prepare for practicing in class and the final concert video. 


The opinions among orchestra students about participating in a virtual music class varies.


Having classes on Zoom has been quite an adjustment for many students and making adjustments to accommodate virtual learning has been a struggle as well. Although the three orchestra classes have had less in-person time to play in class, there is a bright side to playing at home outside of class. Freshman Kyla Albertz says, “I didn’t like doing orchestra on zoom, but I am fine with having to do it hybrid because I can practice more.”


 With less time working together, the students are more in charge of working on the piece at home, and perfecting their parts for the next days in class. Sophomore Luli Perez says, “I would say it’s harder because you don’t get all the in class time you could have and it’s harder to get back into the groove of things but when we do get to play all together it makes it more fun and exciting!” 

Even though many students agree that “the sound is just not the same, and the experience is not the same as performing together with a group or listening to music being performed” (Hayden), the online winter concert is still an important accomplishment of this school year, and a way to display the orchestra students’ work. 

Both Hayden and students are proud of the final result, and would love it if you watched their performance!