Bulldog Bites

News and Views from the University of Redlands

The show must go on

A black and white macro photo of piano keys.
After the U of R Summer Piano Camp was canceled due to the pandemic, the Bulldog spirit kicked in and participants responded by creating a whole new experience using video. (Photo by Amir Doreh via Unsplash)

When the University of Redlands 2020 Summer Piano Camp was canceled because of COVID-19, students and organizers tapped into their “the show must go on” determination to create a whole new experience using video.

U of R Summer Piano Camp, a week-long workshop for intermediate to advanced pianists ages 9-18, has been held on the main U of R campus since 2008. Artist Professor of Piano Louanne Long, who is executive director of the camp, said there is high anticipation for the program and many of the campers return year after year.

When the pandemic sent the University into lockdown and plans for the 2020 camp were canceled, there was a pause to lament and then the Bulldog spirit kicked in.

The Bulldog spirit

Student Assistant Jamison Stevens ’22 and Richard Long, the camp’s multimedia director, spearheaded a video project connecting campers with faculty, aides, and each other. Also involved were piano performance major Student Assistant Hanako Duffie ’23, who helped organize, film, and edit the video, and music composition major Student Assistant Timothy Cunningham ’22, who was editor for the project.

“Jamison's plan was to capture and retain some of this amazing enthusiasm by inviting campers and faculty/staff to submit videos of themselves,” said Louanne Long, “encouraging them to share anecdotes and simply to reminisce.”

As the summer progressed, dozens of campers, parents, faculty, and staff responded with videos, letters, photos, emails and more. The result is a 30-minute documentary, “Piano Camp 2020—the Quarantine Edition.”

“It was heartwarming to hear especially from many of the younger students,” said Stevens, who attended the camp for two summers before attending U of R.

“The end result was a film that included performances from previous years, along with short videos of people sharing their favorite memories of the camp,” said Cunningham, who had worked with Stevens before, team-teaching a composition class at the camp in 2019 and writing the first original, student-composed masterwork for the University’s Feast of Lights that same year. “[A lot of campers shared] what they missed most, and what they were looking forward to when piano camp returns.”

Duffie, who most enjoyed the collaboration with her fellow campers and the performance opportunities, added: “Piano Camp is very dear to my heart and it will always be my favorite memory. I feel grateful to have helped bring our community together even though we were physically apart, and it was wonderful to see how much it meant to our Piano Camp community.”

A morale boost for musicians

The morale boost is important, according to Cunningham, because the pandemic has been especially difficult for student musicians. “Performing is integral to our development… and getting to hear other performers live is crucial to furthering one’s own musicality,” he said, adding that during his work on the project “it was reassuring to see how many people love to participate in the creation of music and how many people are looking forward to learning and performing once it is safe to do so again.”

Stevens agreed: “All musicians, young and old, were impacted by the pandemic. The students expecting to go to camp missed cherished opportunities to collaborate and perform with others their age and work with distinguished faculty, and the faculty who had been preparing hard for the camp missed sharing their passion and love of piano and music.

“I would encourage students and faculty to stick with what they love and find new ways to express it,” Stevens continued. “Listening to, practicing, and sharing music can still bolster our love and passion.”

Louanne Long said the film premiered on YouTube to an invited audience of previous campers and their families, camp staff and faculty, and other supporters. Now it lives on YouTube to continue inspiring all musicians. 

Visit Summer Piano Camp for information and updates on the Summer 2022 program.