Ambassador Blog: Virtual Classes

By Linda Diaz

Linda Diaz standing beside classic cars

Composition student Linda Diaz (BM ’22).

USC Thornton Student Ambassador Linda Diaz (BM ’22), an undergraduate student in the Composition program, shares her experience of how her courses, classmates and faculty adapted to online learning, and found perks in the process.

The world hasn’t just turned upside down—it has tripped, done a double backflip, and has yet to land. Nonetheless, a global pandemic is probably one of the best unsolicited opportunities to jump-start a new framework of creativity. As Dean Cutietta reminded us seven months ago when the U.S. joined the global lockdown, “[We] aren’t preparing for the real world. [We] are preparing to change the world. That’s what artists do.”

When classes first went virtual last semester, after collectively riding the Zoom learning curve and overcoming the initial awkwardness, unexpected perks began to reveal themselves. With lectures accessible remotely, many special guests from around the world including Ellen Reid, JLin, Nathalie Joachim, Qasim Naqvi, Jimmy Douglass, and even some piano playing goats have given presentations in my classes since — with many more to come!

An unexpected special guest to Professor Krausas’ Aural Skills class from Strath Haven Ranch!

With cutting edge plugins such as Audiomovers from ListenTo, frequent Zoom updates for music and stereo sound sharing support, and capabilities for direct midi input audio sharing, most classes have found ways to parallel or even enhance in-person instruction from the tech standpoint. All classes are recorded and accessible, which makes for reduced anxiety over possible internet connection mishaps or time zone shifts, and for great additional review of class material. For classes that are centered around a particular software such as Pro Tools, Logic, and Wwise, USC has also been able to provide student licenses for the semester in lieu of access to the labs.

The magic of making music in the same space as others is undoubtedly sorely missed, but efforts to continue a semblance of that spark have manifested in uniquely collaborative ways and the development of fresh skills. From USC Choirs’ virtual performances, to the Writer-Composer Classes’ final projects, to the Sophomore Composition Showcase, I have gained a great deal of experience recording into a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), mixing audio, and video editing, which has proven incredibly valuable toward my remote audio internship in the summer and, of course, for this particular semester.

In a Concerto Chamber Orchestra rehearsal reviewing first recorded drafts led by Music Director Adam Karelin, with the principal players for Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Petite Suite.

In many ways, being forced to make the switch to an online platform has prompted more attention to the visual presentation of our work and a new dimension to our artistic expression. Especially in being involved as Production Chair of the Concerto Chamber Orchestra, a student-run group for open to music majors and non-majors alike, I have been challenged to channel the video to support the music and audio that each member submits, in an attempt to more deeply engage the audience. With our most recent release of Joseph Bologne’s Second Symphony, we strived to visually portray aspects of Bologne’s incredible life and legacy while simultaneously showcasing CCO’s spectacular musicians. As an added benefit, having the performance already exist in an online format makes it effortless to share with friends and family who would normally not be able to attend an in-person event in LA.

This unprecedented time has also inspired relationships to form within Thornton, as well as across all academic schools of USC, as a way to keep collaboration alive between students of different disciplines. Spearheaded by Professors Nina Young, Lisa Sylvester, and Lina Bahn, the new Performer-Composer Collaborative Residency initiative has grouped many composition majors with performance majors to produce and perform new works to be featured on Thornton’s virtual stage.

We are all acutely looking forward to the day we can once again picnic on the Thornton lawn, catch a conversation in the MUS lobby, and run into each other during those late night practice sessions, but until then, we will continue to fill the world with the art that it needs most.

The USC Thornton Student Ambassadors are currently enrolled undergraduate students at the USC Thornton School of Music and are committed to enhancing the experience for all students, present and future.

TAGS: Classical Division, Classical Performance and Composition, Composition, Student Ambassadors,

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