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by Audrey Ladele

Collage, from top left clockwise: Stephen Anderson, Jason Foureman, Rahsaan Barber, Baron Tymas, Dan Davis, and Juan ÁlamoThe UNC Department of Music is very excited to announce that for the first time this semester, we will be having a live concert, the Jazz Faculty Concert, made possible by the new low-latency technology that was installed by Jesse Moorefield and Jay Harper this summer. We are also looking forward to Assistant Professor Rahsaan Barber’s first performance as a member of our faculty, who will be playing alongside faculty members Juan Álamo on percussion, Stephen Anderson on piano, Dan Davis on drums, Jason Foureman on bass, and artist in residence Baron Tymas on guitar. The Jazz Faculty Concert will be aired live on YouTube on Wednesday, October 14, at 7:30 PM.

Getting performances rehearsed and ready has proven to be only half of the battle when it comes to organizing a concert during a pandemic. Utmost consideration for safety has been the main focus of the music department, however, this presents an enormous logistic challenge. Unfortunately, performers who can’t play their instruments while wearing a mask, in this case, Barber playing saxophone, must play alone in separate rooms from the masked performers.

However, with the new technology installed by Moorefield and Harper, the department has been able to overcome these challenges without compromising safety. Moorefield remarks, “over the summer, we put in some gear that allowed for different rooms in our buildings to be connected via audio, with low latency. With low latency… we use the infrastructure of the network to connect the rooms using a protocol called Dante.” This low latency technology means that performers can be in separate spaces yet hear and see each other in real-time, creating an expanded rehearsal/concert hall perfect for the pandemic.

Masked musicians rehearse on Moeser Auditorium stage.
Stephen Anderson (piano) and Dan Davis (drums) rehearse with students in early August Moeser Auditorium, connected to Hill Hall 103. (Photo credit Jesse Moorefield)

Harper also touched on the significance of being able to have a concert, saying, “I’m excited for the department because having a live concert is huge.” He further spoke on possibilities for performances in future semesters, explaining,

“thinking about spring semester, it’s a perfect demonstration of how we can still make music via the department and keep it safe.”

The pair also discussed adding more rooms to the extremely flexible Dante set up, broadening the infrastructure for more performance capabilities. Ultimately, technology advances that the department has taken during the pandemic have allowed for the possibility of live performance and even simple rehearsals again; a change welcomed by musicians in the department who have been quarantined for months.

Speaking of musicians who haven’t been able to perform live since the pandemic started, Professors Stephen Anderson and Rahsaan Barber are highly anticipating the upcoming faculty concert, in which Barber will be performing for the first time as a member of faculty at the UNC Department of Music and Anderson will pay homage to a close friend, Jeffrey Eckels.

Rahsaan Barber
New Jazz Studies faculty, Assistant Professor Rahsaan Barber

Barber spoke of his excitement for becoming a faculty member, noting,

“I’ve always enjoyed young musical minds. Honestly, I think they’ve always been the minds that kind of shifted music forward.”

He also spoke about the music that will be performed at the faculty concert, saying, “the thing I was struck with walking out of rehearsal last night was the range of musicianship.” They will be performing an original piece by Anderson, dedicated to colleague and friend Jeffry Eckels, who recently passed away, which Barber coined as “epic,” as well as jazz standards and original pieces from Barber. Anderson added, “I think you’re going to hear some soulful, bit more modern jazz.”

While it is safe to say that COVID-19 has challenged the UNC Department of Music in more ways than one, with the support of an incredible faculty and staff, we are once again able to entertain the idea of live performance. The pandemic has challenged the department to think outside of the box to maintain the presence of another musician during a performance while still being safe and socially distant. Thanks to the technological prowess of Jay Harper and Jesse Moorefield and many other members of the staff, the department has found answers to these questions.

Anderson thought back to the first time he was able to make use of the new technology infrastructure and noted that,

“[performing] was just so therapeutic for all of us and just so much fun.”

In addition to this, we are now able to properly welcome Assistant Professor Rahsaan Barber to the department with his first performance as a member of the faculty, as well as honor the memories of loved ones lost to the pandemic, more specifically, Jeffry Eckels, close friend and colleague of Dr. Stephen Anderson. As the department looks forward, possibilities are opening up even during these trying times.

Learn more about the Jazz Faculty Concert here.

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