Playing as an Ensemble One Instrument at a Time

“How do I keep students playing their instruments on music that is meant to be performed as an ensemble?”

Glenn Pohland, DMA, associate professor of music

This is just one of the questions that presented itself to Glenn Pohland, DMA, associate professor of music, as he was no longer able to have in-person rehearsals due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After some trial and error, Pohland is beginning to find ways to make the most of the tools available as students are sheltering in place.

“We are currently working on a project that involves all of the students playing their parts of an ensemble piece along with a provided click track,” Pohland explained. “The next step involves merging these video/audio files into a virtual performance.”

Pohland hosts his students on Zoom, but the platform limits audio to one person at a time, so playing “together” is challenging. By sharing backing tracks to solo songs, students can build out performances.

Among those performances is a rendition of the jazz standard “All of Me” provided by Jenna Roskopf (’20).

This approach to sharing backing tracks has been well-received by the students, who are handling the online instruction in stride. Yet, despite these adjustments, there are still challenges to overcome.

“The sound quality is the biggest concern I have.  Students with external microphones do a better job of sending quality performances. If they have a good quality headphone or earbuds, they tend to hear a better quality on the backing track,” he said.

Still, Pohland is encouraged by the efforts put forth by the students and knows they will make the best of the situation.

“They are responding well,” Pohland said. “Surprising to me is that I have had almost 100 percent attendance at every zoom rehearsal that we have had.”

About Loras College
Founded in 1839, Loras College leverages its historic roots as Iowa’s first college, the second oldest Catholic college west of the Mississippi River and one of the nation’s 10 diocesan colleges to deliver challenging, life-changing experiences as part of its residential, Catholic setting. In 2019, Loras was the second-highest ranked Catholic college in the state of Iowa according to College Consensus, the 16th Best Regional College in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report and one of America’s Top 200 Most Loved Colleges/Universities by Forbes Magazine for the third consecutive year. Loras students ranked No. 2 in the world as part of the global Peeptrade Investment Challenge while a second group ranked No. 4. For the 10th consecutive year, Loras Media Studies student-led television station (LCTV) was named the TV Station of the Year by the Iowa College Media Association (ICMA).