DVHS Music Department showcases musicians in virtual Fall Extravaganza

Olivia Phongsa and Grace Zhao

To display the talents of DVHS musicians during the COVID-19 pandemic, the DVHS Music Department hosted its online Fall Extravaganza on Nov. 6.

The Fall Extravaganza is a virtual music showcase in which DVHS music students submitted either individual or group performances that were compiled and then uploaded to Band Director Marc Walker’s YouTube channel. This included anything from students putting together their own jazz groups to string players collaborating with woodwind players to solo Broadway ballads. 

Especially in a time where many classes remain virtual, DVHS Orchestra Director Paul Rhodes believes the Fall Extravaganza helps students stay engaged in their musical learning.

Students appeared onscreen in living rooms, neighborhood parks and gallery layouts, generating over two hours of content with a mix of vocal and instrumental talent.

“In a time when we’re not able to perform, it’s going to be very easy to just sort of retreat into ourselves and practice what we practice, but not really delving into detail into what we do … Whereas in this kind of [solo-based] performance that we’re having now, there is very much a need for you to be present in what you do,” he stated. 

The Fall Extravaganza showcased students’ performance abilities, but DVHS Band Director Teri Musiel also believes it allowed for viewers to “get lost in the zone of music for a while.”

“Early on in Europe, when everything was getting shut down, they were putting music together from porch to porch to porch … I feel like people were searching for that, so if we can produce and put it out, maybe it’ll be just a little bit of a community lift,” she suggested.

Performers continued to improve in their musicianship while also gaining personal achievements through the Fall Extravaganza. 

Rhodes explained, “I would like to see them take an opportunity to refine what they do on their instrument, because there is something about putting something together that will be presented to other people that heightens the responsibility towards the music being performed and creates a more polished product than just practicing by oneself.”

Despite the benefits of the virtual performance, pandemic virtual showcases are facing a variety of challenges, including maintaining a sense of community.

“It’s not the same as playing as a whole group; in band you have different instruments, but it’s not the same variety, and [in the Fall Extravaganza] you don’t have as many people working together,” DVHS Wind Ensemble musician Ivana Chen expressed.  

Rhodes built on this idea, saying, “It’s a more sterile and not as direct experience in that the opportunities to collaborate are at best limited in this format. And that’s the one thing I grieve about as much as anything else.”

And of course, the technical difficulties that come with a virtual performance — coupled with the emotional disconnection — can be dampening.

“There is something about being able to have interaction and feedback, immediate feedback from an audience, that cannot be recovered from this format,” Rhodes said. 

He does, however, suggest one high point in that students can create the best representation of themselves in their performance before video submission. Musiel adds that after the adjustments music ensembles have had to make to go remote, the Fall Extravaganza acts as an output.

“It’s at least some sort of payoff for the music work that you’ve been doing,” she stated. “A little bit of a reward for the virtual learning in class from these last couple of weeks and months.”

“The music students [won’t] get discouraged by the fact that they’re just practicing for nothing,” agreed DVHS Chamber Orchestra musician Brianna Zhang, who believes students were grateful for this opportunity.

Performances proceeded smoothly and the video, which has over 200 views, will be on YouTube to stay. 

Chen suggests that virtual concerts would be a fun way to continue performing in a remote environment. Rhodes is even considering incorporating the Fall Extravaganza into the post-pandemic curriculum. 

“Just for students to have a situation where their individual voice can be heard in that way,” Rhodes said, “or that they can work on music that they wouldn’t normally work on, or that they can work with people in a more direct way that they wouldn’t have that opportunity to do so otherwise.”

Chen expressed her anticipation for the audience’s reaction.

“I hope they just get a fun vibe,” she said. “Everyone just worked really hard.”