Musicians find innovative ways to band together online during COVID isolation

Published 18 May 2020
Harry J Hart Southern Cross University music student Harry J Hart performed as part of the live-streamed Gold Coast Music Awards

While the global music industry is rapidly shifting in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, local musicians are finding innovative ways to continue collaborating and learning.

Southern Cross University musician and lecturer Dr Barry Hill said ramifications of the unprecedented global shutdown of public gatherings were being felt by all, from top international acts to local street musicians.

“Musicians and entertainment acts are doing it really tough at the moment. Some have had work cancelled through to the end of the year and beyond, with a slowdown in bookings into 2021 – now really is the time to support artists and purchase that merch,” Dr Hill said.

“Music brings people together. That’s so evident in the online videos from across the world where isolated residents are playing and singing in unison from their balconies, to reignite a sense of togetherness and fun.”

Dr Hill said musicians are industry front runners in adapting and making sense of new environments and had already been trailblazers in embracing technology to connect with audiences.

“We’ve seen some of the world’s top artists and local musicians connecting with audiences and streaming global concerts, taking requests and engaging in a whole new way. Our very own Gold Coast Music Awards, supported by Southern Cross University, was streamed virtually across the globe to an audience of more than 21,000,” Dr Hill said.

He said musicians would always find creative ways to collaborate with each other. For example, Southern Cross University music students have embraced online tools to continue collaborating and improve their musicianship despite the current restrictions.

Southern Cross University has transitioned all its courses online, including the Bachelor of Contemporary Music usually offered at Lismore campus and Coomera Creative Campus on the Gold Coast, making it the one of the first online music degrees in Australia.

Dr Hill has already worked with students to record a multi-part chorale arrangement, with singing classes transitioning successfully online.

"I conduct a class that examines the evolution of vocal harmony and in one workshop students usually sing a medieval Gregorian Choir arrangement together, to experience the uplifting feeling of singing contrapuntal harmonies,” he said.

"Due to COVID-19, we adapted the exercise to an online environment by instructing students to choose a vocal harmony part and record it at home on whatever technology they had access to. We then compiled the recordings and added a church ambience effect to reproduce the sound of a medieval choir singing in a monastery. The impact was amazing.

"By doing this project in this way students have gained more knowledge of the art of studio recording than they normally would. Even if we can’t physically sing together, audio technology is enabling students to understand the power of music-making together even while in isolation.” Listen to the result here.

“Transitioning our industry-leading course entirely online for the time being has been a mammoth task but a hugely rewarding one and the students have remained incredibly engaged. For budding musicians who have been considering study or wanting to formalise their skills we are encouraging them to apply to the Bachelor of Contemporary Music at Southern Cross for the Session 2 mid-year intake. This course will be an asset in understanding and working in the music industry, digital engagement, writing, recording, producing, collaborating and having access to workshops and sessions exclusive to students, and is usually delivered through Southern Cross University's Lismore Campus and Coomera Creative Campus.

“For those who have the means, it’s a good time to study, learning from industry leaders, while continually strengthening their skills in musicianship.”

Media contact: Jessica Nelson 0417288794 or scumedia@scu.edu.au