The BIPOC composer quintet project

In ASU brass one of our goals in the time of COVID is to think in terms of possibilities, that there are ways to enhance collaboration and learning. This led to the creation of the Brass Collaborations project. One early product was our late summer audio/video project, created using platforms available for free for use by ASU students.

With that video launched, we went forward with the students, putting them all in groups of similar ability. Then we did a further tweak of the concept and moved all the groups to focusing on works by BIPOC composers, arranged by Luther Henderson. This also included having composition and musicology faculty speak (on Zoom) to the brass area about the music of the era and Luther Henderson and his career. The results have exceeded our expectations.

For another viewpoint on our project, from a bigger picture, see also this article:

Creativity required: How COVID-19 accelerated change in design and arts education

From the article,

Burgstaller and his colleagues spent the summer figuring out how to fully leverage the technology and use it to their students’ advantage. As an example, the brass faculty released a video of their virtual performance of the “Love Theme to Cinema Paradiso, ” produced using only resources that are free to ASU students, such as BandLab and Adobe Creative Suite.

“COVID is not decelerating your learning process — it’s reordering it,” Burgstaller said. “We’re in this situation where we can make a lot of difference in helping students learn technology skills that are usually acquired later or once musicians are out of school. In my era as a student, these are all skills I learned on my own and use intensively.”

This has all been part of a larger push since 2019 to revitalize our brass chamber music program, and it has been exciting to see the results obtained by looking for opportunities rather than looking at the difficulties presented by COVID.

Going forward, next semester the plan is a similar project, but all the quintets will be playing and recording movements or works by women composers.