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Listening and learning with Live from 136

Live from 136 is a virtual concert series organized by the music faculty at Weber State University’s Department of Performing Arts as a way to keep students involved at school during the pandemic.

Min Shan Tsai plays a piano solo composed by Beethoven. (Israel Campa / The Signpost)
Min Shan Tsai plays a piano solo composed by Beethoven on Live from 136. (Israel Campa / The Signpost)

Assistant Director of Bands Daniel Jonas and Music Area Program Coordinator Carey Campbell formulated a plan to tweak their in-person performances to a video format this semester because of COVID-19 restrictions.

“Now more than ever, I think we’re all so isolated from one another,” Jonas said. “I want everyone to know our students are still here, still working hard and achieving great things.”

The videos showcase a variety of symphonic instruments and even mainstream instruments such as the electric guitar and DJ turntables. They are uploaded every Tuesday morning onto WSU’s Arts & Humanities YouTube channel.

Performing in front of a camera has been an adjustment for students who are accustomed to performing in front of an audience. Campbell believes it to be a foreign, yet important skill for students to learn early on as technology continues to evolve.

Even though the pandemic has caused a strain on campus organizations, there has been an added benefit in compelling students to become more technologically advanced in the production of film and audio.

Another positive aspect of the concert series is that students are able to interact and connect verbally with their audience.

For example, on Nov. 11, pianist Min Shan Tsai demonstrated how the chords were being used in the piece “Appassionata,” by Beethoven.

Jonas believes there’s something for everyone within the concert series, which is why it’s important to him that the events continue.

“Thus far on the series, we’ve had everything from Beethoven to Jimi Hendrix,” Jonas said. “I would hope that no matter what you’re feeling or what your personal favorite might be, you can find something that you’ll enjoy.”

In one of the Marimba Ensemble’s performances for the series, the musicians covered the late Richie Valens’ song “La Bamba,” which Campbell said often leaves viewers smiling.

As for the future of the concert series, there are no concrete plans. However, Campbell said in spring 2021, the program is projected to have more student involvement, as well as feature original works composed by students.

“Our plans for next year are wide open,” Jonas said. “Students can use the series to showcase their talents however they choose.”

Jonas and Campbell understand COVID-19 has been hard on their students, but they’re proud of their continued dedication to the program.

“It’s very easy to want to quit or to have a cynical attitude in the face of the challenges of this year, but our students have worked hard and put on some great performances,” Jonas said. “Live music still lives on in Live from 136.”

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