Class is dismissed for the rest of the school year due to the regional stay-at-home order, but a group of Pleasanton music teachers recently came together with the power of technology for a cheerful virtual ensemble performance.
Though spring break was spent in isolation for most people last week, 15 elementary and secondary grade music instructors from Pleasanton Unified School District volunteered their time toward the creation of a video featuring the song "Jungle Dance" by Brian Balmages.
Each person selected an instrument and part to play -- or several -- and then recorded themselves performing at home. Afterward, the footage was edited during an arduous process that took several days before being posted online. The most challenging part of editing was perfectly syncing up the audio from the individual recordings so everyone would harmonize in the final product.
Harvest Park Middle School music teacher Paul Perazzo told the Weekly that he came up with the idea for the video after seeing similar projects on social media and "thought it would be good for Pleasanton teachers to do something ... and show the power of music. We just wanted to do something that would brighten their day."
Perazzo, who plays clarinet and saxophone in the video, said that because he doesn't "have the technical acumen," first-year Hart Middle School music teacher Andrew Lu was tapped for help. The duo emailed as many PUSD music instructors as possible shortly after the order was announced, and asked them all to record and send videos of themselves playing their selected parts.
The song was chosen for its upbeat and simple melody, which made the recording and editing process much easier.
"I said let's do something fun that we could get out to the teachers quickly. My criteria was 'let's just play something'," Perazzo said about the song selection. "I probably spent an hour between working on the parts and recording. What wasn't a quick process was (Lu) -- he probably spent 40 hours putting it together last week because it's no small feat putting together a video like that."
Lu estimated that "around 36 hours of work was put into crafting the video from start to end" during his vacation, but "it gave me something to do." He said that recently it's been "pretty stressful" putting together an online curriculum for his students on short notice "but spring break meant I could not worry about that for the week."
"I was scared my spring break would be boring but it absolutely wasn't because I spent all week working on this. It made it fly by," Lu added. "It wasn't that much of a challenge, mainly because I've done (video editing) before and I'm actually doing something like this for all my ensembles at school. All six of my classes will be doing a scaled back version of this."
Most of the instruments played in the video are those traditionally seen in marching bands like the tuba, trumpet and flute, but a few stand out including one teacher seen improvising with a trash can and another using his daughter's Casio keyboard. With the shelter-in-place order still in effect for at least another month, Lu also had to flex his creative skills a little bit.
"I played some percussion in the video, so there's some stuff of me playing a shaker I made out of a disposable water bottle and some rice," Lu said. "That's one of the benefits -- 'Jungle Dance' is very flexible where even if you don't have very specific instruments the composer calls for, you can still have fun with it and make it work."
Sharolyn Borris, who teaches music at both Hearst and Walnut Grove elementary schools, and also plays clarinet in the video, said, "None of this is ideal but we're going to celebrate what we do have."
"I think we're all just heartbroken," Borris said, listing the experiences that students will now miss this spring because of the lockdown such as the Harvest Park band members recording a live performance onstage at Disneyland and the annual joint Foothill-Amador musical that was suddenly cancelled last month.
After the video's debut last weekend, Lu mentioned "how proud I was of the project even before it went out. When it was released on Saturday night, the response we started to get right off the bat was so heartwarming and rejuvenating, a positive experience overall."
"Jungle Dance" can be viewed at: https://youtu.be/JCLXEg9PsqE