The Owensboro High School band’s holiday concert premiered virtually Monday night — and it featured a surprise video message from alumnus Kevin Olusola from the group Pentatonix.
The full video, which also features appearances by staff, students and alumni, can be viewed here. Olusola delivers a message of encouragement and appreciation around 16:25 into the video.
Aaraon Klausing, assistant director of the band, and former Owensboro Middle School Band Director Paula Humphreys were behind the effort to surprise students with Olusola’s message.
“He was so kind to send it to our students,” Klausing said. “In his message, Kevin focused on celebrating the student’s accomplishments during this COVID time. Kevin represents so much to these kids, especially in this community. When students see him, they see the possibilities of what could be and where their own dreams could take them. I believe he creates a sense of hope for them.”
Klausing said the concert came about because of the virtual environment these students have been put in.
“All teachers are having to change the fundamental ways they are delivering their content to their classes, and band is no exception,” he said. “As a band teacher, we had to become very creative in ways to not only deliver our content to teach online but also in celebrating the work of the students in an environment that would allow them to be together while apart.”
Many of the rehearsals were done virtually, using programs like Google Meets and BandLab to deliver musical content to the students so they could play along with everyone in a live setting.
Klausing said he knows students have been affected socially and emotionally and he was wanting a project to celebrate the students and their accomplishments.
“I wanted to do everything in my power that I could showcase them in a virtual environment that would allow us to create music together,” he said.
In March when the shutdowns began, Klausing started teaching himself how to use audio and video editing software in hopes that he could bring all the students together in the most normal environment possible for a performance.
“Since then, we have been fortunate enough to have had other virtual performances,” he said. “For this one, I really wanted to make it special knowing that these students are just fatigued from the crisis. I wanted to celebrate our students in a way that would bring them joy this holiday season.”
Head band director Abe Barr and Klausing came up with seven different songs for the students to prepare — some smaller ensemble and some larger ensembles.
“For each ensemble, we rehearsed them virtually during class and additionally ran afterschool rehearsals to prepare them for their video submission,” Klausing said. “Each student had to listen to a click track (a track that had a recording with metronome) and perform the work while also video themselves playing it. After they completed that they submitted me the recordings.”
The audio and video editing process then took Klausing about nine days to complete.
“I think the end product of each tune really captures the spirit of the holidays and celebrates the students in a way that we could not do if we were in person,” he said. “In seeing several other virtual performances, I tried to create a separate idea or theme for each piece so that it would capture the students and the music in the best light.”
The full band piece “Celebrations for Christmas” took the longest because extra efforts were taken to make it special.
“For this particular piece I contacted not only the Owensboro High School band students, but also asked OHS Alumni, friends and staff to submit it the recording. We ended up with 45 recordings, which was outstanding,” Klausing said.
Klausing was able to create the effects of a live performance, such as hearing the clarinets coming from the left side, the trumpets in the middle or the low brass from the right side. He said it makes the experience more immersive in scale, and he could not be more pleased with how it turned out.
“My hope is that my students will have something that they will remember forever,” Klausing said. “That this performance will be something they can look back on during these trying times and really feel wonderful about what they accomplished. If they do, then I will feel like I have done my job as a teacher and educator.”