UT musicians share growth during the pandemic and experiences with the Butler Summer Series

Sofia Treviño, Life and Arts Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the July 20 flipbook.

With eager neighbors sitting on lawn chairs in a cul de sac, nine musicians played Kristin Jensen’s bassoon ensemble six feet apart. Filled with the energy of performing, the bassoonists rejoiced in finally having an audience to share their art with.

“Us musicians, we thrive on playing music with other people and for audiences, so that was a big void in our lives for 16 months,” said bassoon professor Jensen. “It was really heartwarming, since we had only seen each other on Zoom, to actually be together in the same place.”

Streaming virtual concerts for free from July 8th to the 25th, the Butler Summer Series will showcase student musicians’ work from during the pandemic. Ranging from ensembles to soloists, the concerts will highlight how different musicians tackled the challenges of going online and how each adapted in their own way.

“It was an amazing chance to see each other and express our passion with each other again,” said Jensen. “There’s something very special about that which you just cannot replicate on Zoom, but it was still better than nothing in terms of staying connected with audiences and staying motivated as musicians to have something to practice for.”

Jensen said that she is excited to share “Afterglow”, an original piece composed by Brandon Scott Rumsey, that her group has been working on for the past year. Jensen said she learned to adapt to the growing music scene by having her students perform at outdoor festivals throughout the past year.

“Probably more than any one year in the past 20, I had to become very innovative in terms of how I keep my students engaged,” said Jensen. “I think I’ve become a more empathetic professor as a result and that I need to always be aware of helping students fit their academic and musical goals and conscientiousness into the framework of their larger life.”

Sharing his oboe performance of Fantasia No. 3 on July 25th, graduate student Danny Cruz said he learned more about promoting his work online and learning how to translate traditional audio performances into something visual audiences can engage with.

“A lot of times (as) music students, we’re making music that no one’s ever really gonna hear,” said Cruz. “So it’s kind of on you to figure out how to distribute it or how to get it distributed. Like how are you going to make this something that people want to listen to? In that way, I think it can be something that brings us together.”

Performing in Jensen’s bassoon ensemble, graduate student Brigit Fitzgerald said her growth in the past year has been very rewarding, and is thankful for the Butler Summer Series to share her art.

“It’s cool how we can send music straight from my apartment into somebody’s living room,” said Fitzgerald. “In some ways, that’s a closer connection. But in other ways, I think it made us miss the live element of it. I know I’m really excited for live audience engagement to come back and I think we’ll appreciate that a little more.”

Setting up green screens in her apartment and learning how to layer audio recordings over one another, Fitzgerald noticed how she and many other musicians had to adapt.

“We couldn’t do what we’d always done, and that inspired a lot of new exciting things and new formats of how we get our product to the intended audience,” Fitzgerald said. “It definitely sparked this desire to be original and creative and different. It’s something that would never have been able to happen (before).”