Kitchener Public Library partners with Laurier to host virtual concerts

Photo by Darien Funk

Wilfrid Laurier University will be offering a series of virtual concerts featuring talented students from the faculty of music. Partnering with the Kitchener Public Library (KPL), this series will be held in the library’s Reading Lounge and broadcasted through Facebook Live. 

Kimberly Barber, associate dean at the faculty of music, offered an in-depth look at the partnership with the Kitchener Public Library and the virtual concerts being offered. 

“Since last year, we had this concert series that we did in conjunction with the KPL, and that involved weekly concerts on Mondays. Once the pandemic hit, those were cancelled,” Barber said.

“They started to reopen and offer more events in [a] virtual format and they recently wanted to include music. They feel that’s really part of their mandate to bring music to the community and music as a part of community building and well-being.” 

The KPL approached the faculty of music and brought up the concept of virtual concerts.

The idea was to have students come into the library after hours so they could perform a concert. Students would record and then stream themselves.  “I wasn’t sure, at first, what form that would take; whether they wanted us to submit videos or not,” Barber said. 

“I was really excited because our music students are really missing opportunities to perform and connect with the public and make music together. One of the big things for musicians is collaborating together, making music in real time.”

“There are a lot of issues with online music-making. The technology is tricky when you’ve got these big sound packets that have to be delivered over the internet. There are very few platforms that will allow us to make music in real time and in large groups. For the most part, those possibilities for us are really limited right now,” Barber said.

“When the KPL offered this to us, I reached out to our coordinator of chamber music, at Laurier, and asked if she had some students that would like to be able to go to the KPL after hours. They have their concert program, which they prepared and rehearsed virtually, and then they actually get to go into the library, do the rehearsal and then record their concerts.”

On Monday, Nov. 9, the faculty of music had their first virtual concert. “We have another one scheduled for Dec. 7. We are in the planning stages for what we’re going to be doing in the winter term. We’re hoping to move to one concert per week,” Barber said.

Suddenly, the boundaries of physical space and the constraints of time no longer matter. Anybody can listen on-demand to the music they want, wherever they want. That opens up many possibilities.
Kimberly Barber, associate dean at Laurier’s faculty of music
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“At the moment, they have no restrictions. All instrumentalists are able to come into the library. We have organized it so there are no more than three performers at a time.”

Even though the pandemic has proved to be difficult on almost everyone, the students involved with the faculty of music have been lucky. “They have an opportunity to make music together, at a distance, in real time.”

“As musicians, it’s something we miss terribly. Many of our students have been playing their instruments since they were young. This is something they’re passionate about. It’s wonderful to make music for yourself, but it’s something else to share it with others and to collaborate with other musicians. It’s a very special, intimate and fulfilling practice. We took all of that for granted but now we are all so grateful for every opportunity,” Barber said.

Barber added that it feels like a gift to be able to offer this opportunity to the students. She hopes students are thankful to be able to gather in a large space and make music. “To be able to share that joyfulness with an audience is the icing on the cake.”

“As far as the audience goes, I think we all realize that at this time, we need music, art and things of beauty more than ever. One of the mandates of the library is to be able to make things accessible to the entire population. The internet also makes things accessible to a lot of people. With the library being open, they can also experience these concerts. It is very important to us at Laurier to be able to reach out to the wider community, it gives us a broader reach,” Barber said. 

Given the uncertainty of COVID-19, Barber is optimistic about providing more opportunities for online events. “This situation has opened everybody’s eyes as to what the possibilities might be.”

“Suddenly, the boundaries of physical space and the constraints of time no longer matter. Anybody can listen on-demand to the music they want, wherever they want. That opens up many possibilities.”

Barber said there is one issue, however: market saturation.

“Suddenly, everybody is on this ‘bandwagon,’ and there are a lot of things out there in the virtual environment. Many things are being offered by artists. Whatever we do, we have to make it compelling and interesting, so it can stand out from the crowd. I feel like there is a potentially unlimited market for this kind of thing. The more we do it, the more we learn what people are looking for.” 

Barber added that the faculty of music is eternally grateful for the partnership it has with the Kitchener Public Library. “It gives students and faculty more of an outward face.”

“I’ve been proud of what we’ve been able to do at Laurier this term in a really challenging learning environment. I think all of our students and faculty are learning what the possibilities are in this digital world. We didn’t realize how important it would become to us. The possibilities are limitless.” 

Our world has changed because of COVID-19 and people have adapted quickly on every level. Barber is excited about those possibilities and is impressed with the resilience students have shown. 

“We’ve really had to stretch her muscles and grow and I think that’s an exciting thing,” Barber said. 

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