Virtual Concert Band

  • Posted on
  • By Jenter Zilm

With the COVID-19 virus still preventing gathering together all over the world, musicians are finding it hard to share their abilities with other like minded people Virtual Concert Band (VCB) is "Bringing wind musicians from around the globe together.” This project could be for you if you are one of those musicians who are sitting at home wishing you could go back to band practice, or perform a concert, or even just have a chance to be challenged musically.


This great project has been developed by Melbourne's very own Laura Campbell and we had a chance to ask her some questions about her success.


For those who don't know you Laura, could you please give us an insight?

I’m a woodwind doubler, teacher, social media influencer and entreprenuer from Melbourne. I first picked up the clarinet 12 years ago after I was inspired by hearing my school band play the Wallace and Gromit theme.
During high school the clarinet became my way of expressing my introverted self, and band practice very quickly became the highlight of my week. In the later years of school I started having lessons with Paul Jenkins, who introduced me to the pits of musical theatre and the world of doubling. So I added added flute and sax to my arsenal and have really enjoyed the challenge of becoming fluent on woodwind instruments since. He taught me that it’s possible to be both an excellent teacher and an active musician. It is because of his passion and influence that I knew I wanted to get involved in music in as many ways as possible. I completed both a music and a teaching degree at Monash University, where I studied clarinet under David Griffiths. During uni I started an Instagram page (@laura_clarinetist) all about the clarinet, where I have over 30,000 followers, and has led to collaborations with brands such as Backun, Legere, D’Addario, Soundbrenner and RatStands.
Since graduating I’ve been teaching at schools around Melbourne, performing with musical theatre and orchestral groups, and recently started the Virtual Concert Band.


What urged you to create this outlet?

Well when I started creating Instagram posts it was mainly multi-track recordings, where I would film myself playing all of the instrumental parts of a piece, and edit it together to create a single video. When COVID-19 hit a lot more musicians were using multi-tracks to play as an ensemble, however I only saw collaborations between professional or well known musicians. I saw a need for amateur and young musicians to connect in the same way, and knew I had the ability to provide the outlet for them. So one early morning in March I had the idea! I need to create a Virtual Concert Band. I was so excited to get it up and running that later that day I would release it to the world.


What future do you see for VCB?

Since we launched 6 months ago the evolution of VCB has already changed so dramatically, we have created the website, instagram page, grown in numbers each project, and the quality has improved each project, we have even created merchandise which is selling well.
Looking into the future, we want to involve professional musicians by running masterclasses for each instrument group to cater to the younger musicians who still want to be involved. We also want to grow our little community to be something more than just a replacement for ensembles during the pandemic, but at this stage I’m just taking it as it comes and adapting as I need to.


How many performers do you have in your ensemble?

So far, our largest project has been 453 musicians, but the number of musicians involved depends on how much time I have to put the project together. Each time a project launches, we run out of positions faster, and find we need to keep expanding.


Who can play with VCB?

Anyone who plays a concert band instrument can play with VCB. Lately our repertoire has been of grade 3 concert band standard, so as long as you can play the part, you can join. There is no age limit for the ensemble, and so far our youngest has been 8, and we’ve had many musicians who are retired.


How long does it take to make the videos?

This is all dependent on how many musicians we have involved and the length of the piece.
To give a better idea, musicians were given 3 weeks for record their parts for Shenandoah. It took about 70 hours of audio editing, 80 hours of video editing, and a whole lot of administration. Once all the video are submitted, I aim to have the video released a month later.


For those at home who have never made a multi-track video before can you describe how the final video appears on YouTube?

The process for the musicians is fairly straight forward. They reserve their part on our website, record the music using a smartphone by following the instructions, and email me the video.
The process for me is a little more complicated. Before we launch a project, I need to:
Obtain licensing and sheet music.
Create a click track for the musicians to use, detailed instructions, and set everything up on the website.
Create a spreadsheet with all the musicians details, including who has and hasn’t sent their video in, and follow up with those who submit late, as well as answer questions about parts, recording, and technical difficulties.
Keep on top of social media by posting about the musicians involved, sneak peaks etc.
Once the videos are all sent in, I download them to a hard drive, and edit the audio for each instrument group separately. Once each instrument is edited, I balance the final product to give as much dynamic contrast as possible, and the right balance between sections.
The video process involves me creating a giant screen of everyone involved, which I create screens of each instrument group, and create a plan of when each instrument is going to feature in the final video.
I glue it all together, add any fancy transitions, intros and credits.
Finally I upload to YouTube!


Wow that explains why it would take a lengthy period to collate. What would you say to those considering joining your amazing virtual concert band?

For those who aren’t sure about joining, I’d say to give it a go at least once, and you’ll be hooked. We aren’t just an ensemble where you record your part and send it in. We’ve created an amazing community, where we have a "members only" Facebook page where members can discuss markings in parts, how to play tricky sections, motivation when trying to get that perfect take, we support each other through difficult times (pun intended), and are basically a huge family!
This project we also have the composer involved, where she is conducting the piece, and running workshops on the meaning behind each movement, answering questions, and we’ll talk about the struggle of being a female composer and the importance of mental health.

"We’ve created a beautiful community and support network that I couldn’t be more proud of!"


Find out more about Virtual Concert Band