By Elysse James
Tesoro High School choir students have done something unprecedented.
During a normal school year, they end their concert season with a pops concert. The very last song? “Seasons of Love” from the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1996 musical Rent by Jonathan Larson.
So, with distance learning fully underway and students set to end their school year safely social-distanced, they took a new route that would end in a 180-video compilation of “Seasons of Love”, a fitting way to close the school year.
Tesoror choir director Keith Hancock began the tradition his first year teaching, in 2002. The final piece is normally sung by alumni and the current choir together.
“I’ve always liked the song for its musical value,” Hancock said. “It resonates with the kids and it has a positive message of love and hope.”
Hancock, who was honored this year by the Country Music Awards as a Music Teacher of Excellence and in 2017 received the Grammy and the Recording Academy Music Educator Award, felt the impetus to create a virtual choir video.
Virtual choirs — popularized by composer/conductor Eric Whitacre — have gone mainstream during the coronavirus pandemic.
“When performing artists aren’t able to collaborate, it feels like there’s something missing in your life,” Hancock said. “While a virtual choir doesn’t completely fill that hole, it’s about as close as we can get right now.”
Students were given detailed instructions on how to dress, what backgrounds to use, how to record, and more to create a uniform look for the final product.
Then, Hancock and assistant Mikayla Feldman divvyed up the audio and video tracks and set to work on their first-ever virtual choir creation using 180 submitted videos recorded on students’ cell phones. Using Logic Pro and Final Cut Pro, and with help from alumnus Zach Olshan, they created their own virtual rendition of the classic “Seasons of Love.”
“I’m thrilled with the final product, especially given the fact that this Is our first attempt at anything like this,” Hancock said. “I’m hoping to never have to do this again, because it’s not a replacement for the actual live performance.”
“We asked the students to do something they’ve never done before,” he said, “and I think the kids really rose to the occasion to deliver some good videos in an environment that was brand new to them as well.”
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