Video courtesy of WPLN
By Kristin Whittlesey
With social distancing measures in place around the country and public gatherings canceled, the Vanderbilt University Blair School of Music’s pre-college student performers have been left without a stage. But that doesn’t mean Blair Academy students aren’t still performing.
Zachary Ebin, director of Blair’s Suzuki program, organized a series of online outreach concerts for people in need of a little cheer, including residents at Abe’s Garden, a Nashville Alzheimer’s and memory care facility.
“During these difficult times, we have become aware that there are people feeling alone,” Ebin says. “Recognizing music’s unique power to create personal connections, violin student Nora Wang and I have been arranging virtual musical visits for members of the Nashville community who find themselves without visitors. To date we have done eight virtual recitals via Zoom for residents at care facilities like Abe’s Garden, as well as numerous online concerts for individuals.”
Wang, a Blair Academy violin student of Christina McGann and junior at the Harpeth Hall School in Nashville, serves as both a performer and facilitator of the online concerts. She coordinates all the performers and troubleshoots the technology to keep the performances flowing. The concerts are performed on Tuesdays and Fridays, lasting about an hour. Each broadcast begins with less experienced performers and progresses to older, more seasoned students.
The Abe’s Garden residents have been enthusiastic about the concerts.
“They are a bright spot in our day,” says Nancy. (Last names are not used in this article for privacy reasons.)
“The little ones are so adorable, and they play very well for their age,” Janice says.
Shawn agrees, adding, “We look forward to them every time they play!”
With in-person concerts off the table for the foreseeable future, virtual outreach concerts are proving to be an important outlet for the performers and patients alike.
“Even in quarantine, our students have a performance they can work toward, which helps keep them motivated to practice; and members of our community who were left without visitors get to connect virtually with these young musicians,” Ebin said.
“I think that in this period of social isolation, it becomes even more important to make connections and build community,” Wang says. “I’ve participated in this as a performer and an organizer, and have found it extremely rewarding.”
For more than 50 years, Blair has offered the Middle Tennessee community top-quality music education for children, youth and adults.