Tomorrow’s Virtual Memorial Day Parade: The Back Story

Yesterday, the town announced a special virtual Memorial Day celebration for tomorrow (Monday, May 25).

At 9 a.m., a 17-minute video will be broadcast on Cablevision channel 79 and Frontier channel 6020. It will be posted later on the town’s Facebook page.

But hey: Want a sneak peak? It’s already on the Town of Westport’s YouTube channel!

It sounds like our middle and high school bands were captured live. But the story is far more complex — and difficult — than that. 

One screenshot from Westport’s virtual Memorial Day parade …

Bedford Middle School band teacher Lou Kitchner takes us behind the scenes:

Due to the COVID-19 school closure, Westport students have been unable to participate in traditional school experiences that were a significant part of their daily activities — like music classes.

To address this problem, and also honor Westport’s fallen heroes and veterans, grade 6-12 band directors James Forgey, Gregg Winters and Phil Giampietro and I designed a way for students to share their musical talents via a digital performance.

Clockwise from upper left: Gregg Winters, Lou Kitchner, Phil Giampietro, James Forgey.

We created and posted a play-along audio track, with an embedded metronome click, on their class websites. Students practiced their individual parts by playing along with the audio accompaniment.

After a week or two of practice, 165 students recorded their individual performances, just as professional studio musicians do. They used whatever technology they had available: a desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone.

All 165 submissions were then imported into multi-track music software by the teachers. Next the band directors aligned and edited them in time with the song’s tempo, and mixed them down into a single ensemble performance track.

The individual mixes — 6th, 7th and 8th grades, and the combined Staples High School bands — were then combined into one complete grade 6-12 performance. I am so proud of these kids! It sounds like they were all together, in one room.

To complement the audio, we asked students to submit photos of themselves holding or performing their instrument — in school or town- related attire if possible (school closure prevented them from accessing uniforms or school-specific parade t-shirts).

… and another.

Staples media teacher Geno Heiter then spent hours merging all the photos with the final ensemble mix to create the final product: a virtual Memorial Day parade!

Westport has won 7 straight “Best Community for Music Education” awards, from a national foundation. After this effort, they should just name it after us and retire it forever. 

4 responses to “Tomorrow’s Virtual Memorial Day Parade: The Back Story

  1. Jill Turner Odice

    Well done Westport! You should be proud of yourselves for such a wonderful tribute!

  2. Ilene Mirkine

    A huge thank you to the Westport Music and Media Teachers! This is a gift to our town, a virtual stand-in for our beloved Memorial Day Parade. As I sit at my kitchen counter in tears (between this and the historic cover of today’s NYTimes), I truly appreciate the effort here: for the kids (who so look forward to playing in the parade), the servicemen/women and their families, and the people of this town who normally participate in the parade or come as spectators. My emotions overcame me on so many levels when I heard the first few notes of music. It brought back years of memories, had me thinking about the groups that were unfortunately unable to participate, and sent my thoughts to next year when we (hopefully) will be able to resume our town’s Memorial Day tradition, and it will truly be a celebration.

  3. Scott Broder

    Thank you for honoring our men and women Veterans with the beautiful virtual stand in video this Memorial Day❗️ God Bless America 🇺🇸

  4. Kathleen Bennewitz

    Beautifully done, all around- what a creative and innovative solution and gift to our community by the students, teachers and our leaders.