End-of-year recitals for music classes have long been canceled, so one group of local students has refocused their energy on performing — virtually — for seniors across the country.
Zack Ebin, a faculty member of Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music, got the idea from his family. He has three siblings and a large group of nieces and nephews, so after everything got shut down, they decided to ask all the children do a concert for his parents over Zoom.
The show was a hit, and he realized that other adults, also stuck at home, might enjoy something like it.
Now Ebin and a group of students from Blair Academy, the pre-college music program at Vanderbilt, are organizing two concerts a week for local nursing home Abe’s Garden, as well as individuals all over the country.
At age 5, Logan Harris is the youngest performer in the program. What he lacks in experience he makes up for in style, as he introduces his pieces, performs (accompanied by his mother), and takes a practiced bow.
“I played for a concert that is for old people from Abe’s Garden,” he explains in an interview.
The series started with a few string players like Harris, and now there are flutists and pianists. Plus, college students from the Blair School of Music have begun to participate as their semester has come to a close.
It’s a little strange for the students at first, playing for an audience that’s on a screen. But after the first piece, and initial awkwardness dissipates, the students are always asked to play more.
And at that moment, it goes beyond just a video of a concert. Now it’s a performance.
Student violinist Nora Wang, a rising senior at Harpeth Hall who’s been helping to organize the performances, has found the program incredibly rewarding. She said these concerts have been a welcome opportunity to give something to her community without leaving her house, and that the audiences have been particularly receptive.
“It’s really nice to play for people who really appreciate what you’re doing,” she said, “and have a respect for classical music and everything that we’re trying to do.”
At Ebin’s last estimate, they’ve put on at least 30 concerts. He’s not exactly sure how many because the project is now so popular that many students have started performing on their own. The program is also welcoming more recipients.
Ebin says these students are building skills that will eventually transfer to when the students are able to play live again, skills you can’t learn in a practice room: audience connection, and making the music personal.
Blair Academy students gave a demonstration of these performances to 91Classical.