Live music is an integral part of the Oberlin experience, especially for TIMARA students. In a typical school year, there are more concerts and liver performances on campus than there are days in the year. From composer concerts at the bike co-op, to five hour long music festivals in Finney Chapel, there is no shortage of performances to attend or be a part of at Oberlin. Maintaining that part of the campus culture has been a challenge, but students and staff have been working hard to find creative ways to bring music and art to the campus virtually, through Zoom and Livestreams. 

On September 24th, the Cat in the Cream hosted a live streamed concert, in which viewers could tune in via Vimeo to see performers on stage at the Cat. TIMARA majors Drew Smith and Michael Gaspari both performed, Smith on guitar with the band Chroma Burst, and Gaspari on synthesizer, performing an improvised set, I played a show with my group Chroma Burst at The Cat in the Cream along with fellow TIMARA student Michael Gaspari ’22. Chroma Burst is mainly composer/guitarist Henry Nelson ’21, myself and a rotating cast of our close friends and collaborators performing these weird improvised sets. Each one is a little different than the last, this time we had songwriter/composer Owen Frankel ’22 playing bass with us for a rare entirely acoustic performance. It felt so good to be able to perform with other people, this is probably the longest time I have ever had in between performances and it felt just as fun as ever. It was weird playing in the Cat with no one in it, but it was also very comforting knowing people were watching out there and enjoying it. I think the fact that music can be made accessible right now and enjoyed in some sort of communal fashion, despite how hopeless things can feel around us, is really powerful and special. I am super grateful to everyone putting in the hard work to make sure things like this can happen. Also Michael’s set was really incredible and we are super grateful to him for inviting us to play.

On performing a virtual live show, Gaspari said I was super excited to have had the opportunity to perform a live show at the Cat. This was actually my first performance at that venue, but I would have never expected it to be physically empty. Obviously because of COVID-19, the space could not be filled with people, so it was instead a live-stream only. Luckily, the amazing people from Concert Sound told me how many people were on the stream before. It was around 30-40 people as far as I can remember. This was good for me to hear, because I did not feel like this was going to go unheard. The performance went really well for me and the amazing opening act with Drew, Henry, and Owen. I think the one thing that was not the same was the experience an audience member could have. I was one of the only ones that could hear myself and the opening set played on huge loudspeakers. At one point the subwoofers were shaking the whole place. That is the only aspect that really gets lost in a livestream, and sadly, it is one of the more important ones. I would still say that it was a success and a fun experience for sure. I would definitely do something like this again, and I hope more livestream concerts happen so we have some entertainment while we wait for the day we can experience in-person concerts again 

Diana Gruber recently hosted an album release party on Zoom that featured live performances from all over, each performer in their own room or space.  I had the idea of throwing a virtual show to go along with the release of an EP I had been working on last spring. We decided to have a zoom meeting as well as a twitch livestream, so that it would be easy to watch it or to come participate and hang out. I thought it would be fun to have juxtaposing styles of music to go along with my mostly acoustic set, and we had everything from live techno to noise to DJ sets. One thing that really stood out to me about this show was a collaboration between myself and Phoebe in which she created a visual background with photographs I had scanned for my set, placing me in a magic mushroom world instead of just a normal background in a green screen room. It was a little stressful to juggle both playing live and running the livestream/party show atmosphere, but apparently people had a great time, and I am really happy I could facilitate that.  said Gruber. 

Other students have turned to social media to perform, using features such as Instagram and Facebook Live. Fifth year Sophie Shalit recently performed a set on Instagram live, saying  It feels more like filming a youtube video than performing at a show, but the option to get running commentary from your friends that you can look at afterwards is really cute. 

Although the situation is less than ideal, TIMARA majors always find new ways to create and perform together. One thing this pandemic has certainly done for students and staff alike is require them to think outside of the box, which can lead to some new and exciting discoveries. We look forward to seeing how performing in the virtual realm will change the way we think about live music. 

Photo Credit: Anokha Venugopal