I LOVE Music Camp International! Every year I look forward to this event. When one camp ends I start counting the days till the next one, seeing old friends and making new ones. And now we can see each other online with Virtual Music Camp International! I couldn't have imagined how different this year’s music camp was going to be!
Late February: Everyone is speaking about this new virus. “What if it comes to Romania?” “ Wouldn't be nice to stay two weeks at home? We could sleep as much as we want!” "
Beginning of March: Beginning of March: Panic among us. Some overreacting. Some confused. My university was the first one closed. Three days later the schools and the other universities got closed too. By the end of the week Romania was in lockdown.
I remember as if it was yesterday how happy I was we had to stay at home till the end of March. Three weeks of sleeping, peaceful learning and I could still go to “Easter with Masters” (an Easter music camp) in April! GREAT!
You might wonder why everyone wants to sleep. At my university you were lucky to get 6-7 hours of sleep per night. I was one of the lucky ones, but still I didn't feel I had enough time for studying nor did I feel I got enough sleep.
We were in lockdown for 2 months. Almost everything we did was online: school (students teaching teachers how to use Google Meet, Google Classroom, Zoom etc.), work… Needless to say, the camp was cancelled…
Amidst these grey days a ray of sunshine appeared: Music Camp International Virtual.
I was so happy! I could see my friends and finally meet the students from Ukraine *! And the music! I couldn't wait to find out what songs Connie (our conductor) had in store for us!
* Music Camp International wants to give a voice to the children from unprivileged backgrounds, orphans, those with learning difficulties also. This is how the camp started 20 years ago in Romania. It soon expanded to Ukraine. In recent years, there have been plans to organise a camp which could bring children from Ukraine and Romania together. We finally met, even though virtually, and India and Kenya and the USA joined the Music Camp family (the advantages of being online)! Let's keep expanding our family!
How did it all start?
I had the wonderful opportunity to ask Connie and here is her reply:
“It started when I realised that covid was here for more than just a few weeks. I was actually packed and ready for the airport on March the 13th, when my travel agent said: ”I think we need to check with the airlines, because it looks like the whole world is in for this epidemic and I’m afraid if you go you won't be able to come back home.” So, the first thing was that they were closing the borders on the United States, not that I couldn't get in, but the way it would work is that, if I flew home, they would pick me up with a military bus and I would go to a military base for 14 days and stay there, before I would be allowed to come back to my home with my husband.
And I said ok, I will look into it and I called and they said exactly what she told me. So I thought WOW! I can’t do that! It looks like things are pretty dangerous.
It didn't occur to me that it would last. That was in March. I thought certainly by April we could probably do “Easter with Masters” and certainly by June, I can do Făgăraș [music camp] (a city located at the foothills of Romania’s tallest mountains) and do two or three camps in Ukraine. And then it began to get long. I realised that I wasn't going to be able to do music camps in person. I was brokenhearted and I began to hear from the students, that they missed music camp. Hearing from more and more students I just thought “What can we do?”. And then I talked to students, here in the United States, and I realised, that children all over the world were feeling lonely, disconnected, very discouraged, many of them didn't enjoy distance learning and online learning at all, because it can be very boring to just sit and look at the computer all day long.
I thought “What can I do?” And I began to think and this was just an idea [Virtual Music Camp International] that I came up with. So I didn't know much about it and I thought that’s ok, I’ll learn. I am very willing to learn and I am very willing to say: “Oh! That didn't work. I need to try something different!” Since that actually doesn't scare me I thought let's try it, because if anyone can pull it off it's the kids. So we tried it!
The first one [the virtual music camp with the concert on the 1st of June “Hope Reborn”] was very successful, but I learned more than anybody. I learned: “Oh! If I had done it this way, it would have been better and if I’d done this, that would have worked, if I tried this”.
And then I did the second one [the virtual music camp with the concert on the 6th of September “Chainging Our World”] and it was so much better. Now I am actually doing a lot of research, so that I will begin to do a lot of teacher training on teaching virtually and making it engaging, so the students participate and don't feel like they have to sit and look at a computer screen. But that's how it happened!”
A camp lasts a week and we have rehearsals on Zoom every day. In order to learn the songs, we receive the scores and the recordings with piano and voice. For the Christmas camp, Connie also sent us videos with her conducting, which helped me a lot.
The first virtual camp was in May. I didn’t think that a camp could be held in a virtual environment. I was looking forward to it! Even though it wasn't clear to me how it was going take place, I didn't care! I was going to attend music camp, and that was all that mattered!
I had many questions going through my mind. For example:
How will Connie know what we're singing? Will we have our microphones on? What about the Internet delay?
In fact, we sing with the microphones turned off (mute) while watching Connie conducting and listening to the piano (we are like little fish in an aquarium). She looks at our mouths moving and she can tell if each one of us sings the corect part. Connie acknowledges that her biggest challenge is that she can't hear us directly because of the Internet delay.
If we could, we would all keep our microphones on. We send her a selfie video during the week, on the third and fith day of the camp. That's how Connie finds out where we're not singinig corectly and where we still need to improve. And there are many recordings that need listening to! At each rehearsal we have breakout rooms (subgroups) for each voice (Katya for the second voice - alto, Connie for the first voice - soprano) and we repeat each song, especially the difficult parts. The team is wonderful! We can ask any question, at any time, and if we are unsure of a fragment of the song, we can ask them to repeat it. Don't be afraid to ask! There is no wrong question!
How will the concert be? Will we be live at that time?
At the end of the Camp, everyone records all songs and we put them on a drive (in Cloud). David does the video collage and Connie the audio. And let's not forget the wonderful orchestra! At the end we have a real concert! You can't even believe that your recording is there!
In the first concert "Hope Reborn" we sang: Cantar!, Gonna Build A Mountain, Let My People Go, You Raise Me Up.
In the second concert "Changing Our World" we sang: Eja, Eja!, “We Sing For The Children”, “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands” und “When You Believe”.
Have I managed to get you curious about what we have prepared for you for the following Christmas concert “One Silent Night”?
The Christmas camp seemed different to me. I felt connected to the others more than ever! We had new warm-up and rhythm games. Here are some:
At rehearsals we stand on our feet (this is the best position for singing), and in order to see Connie, as well as possible, as well as the scores, I’ve put the computer on a few jigsaw puzzle boxes and I’ve split the screen in two (half Zoom, half the document with scores).
Who wants to put a jigsaw puzzle together?
You can have the scores printed or on the phone, anyway you want! Pay attention to the conductor, she helps you!
Us at the last rehearsal.
The idea of dressing in folk costume for this Christmas concert seemed great to me! I enjoy every time I have the opportunity to wear it! I am proud and impressed by the craftmanship of my great-great-grandmothers who sewed these wonderful clothes!
How to make a perfect video?
1. No rear window, no rear light.
2. Well-lit face, not just half.
Light is very important! We want to see your smile and those beautiful laughing eyes!
3. Video landscape, not portrait!
4. Concert position, look at the camera!
5. Center the camera!
6. No background noise.
If someone records you, be sure they don’t breathe or squeak. Or that the cat isn’t snoring or if you have a Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony enthusiast in the house, ask him/her to turn down the music! "O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!" O friends, no more of these sounds!
The cat is holding a snoring concert! (You can hear her in the background)
7. Music in headphones.
8. Record in the best quality possible.
It seems that, in this case, the biggest is not the best. I prefer filming with the camera because I have better audio and video quality than on the phone. But the phone is very good too. If you are recording with it, first make sure you have enough memory.
9. Learn the scores! They are easy to remember! You will notice that they have a repetitive pattern.
10. SMILE and HAVE FUN!
When you film, you don’t get it always in the first take.
This is my night studio. Night?! Yes, because I have a window in the background and as you saw, during the day, the monsters appear. In addition, during the night it’s quieter (now you can disturb the neighbors).
Does it have to be so complicate with lights, tripod, chair?
No. I use more lights because otherwise the image would be a little bit dark. An extra light is always useful! I put the camera on the tripod and chair, so that it would be at my face level, in order to get a good frame. Have you meet the headless singer?
Do you need a cameraman?
No. During editing, David can cut the beginning and the end for those who are filming by themselves . For everything to go well, after the song is over, wait five seconds before closing the camera.
Do you need a vast musical knowledge?
No. The camp is intended for everyone! Connie helps you where you don't know or if you can't sing a note, she will teach you how to get the perfect pitch . I have no musical experience outside Music Camp. The purpose of this camp is to bring joy and self-confidence to the children all around the world. You won’t know what you can do, if you don't try!
What Music Camp International means to me:
Music Camp is a window to a new world! In 2011 I attended my first camp. Until then, I didn't know I could sing. Music Camp gave me confidence in my voice. I also got to know the instruments (violin, recorder, bells, cello, Orff, guitar, clarinet) and I understood that you can learn to play one even if you haden't started studying when you were five.
We invite you and your entire family to the concert premiere on the 18th of December! You can follow the countdown on the Music Camp International website, from which you can access the concert link.