Seraph Brass Virtual Residencies

In 2020, Seraph Brass pandemic-proofed their teaching initiatives by offering virtual concerts, classes, and residencies around the world.

These remote offerings covered a variety of topics including Career Versatility, Entrepreneurship, Chamber Music: Starting Your Own Group, as well as general instrumental master classes and pedagogy classes. The ensemble also provided virtual concerts and lectures for international festivals including the Italian Brass Week and Sopra Metais in Brazil. Seraph Brass members include Mary Elizabeth Bowden (Assistant Professor of Trumpet, Shenandoah Conservatory), Raquel Samayoa (Assistant Professor of Trumpet, University of North Texas), Jean Laurenz (Assistant Professor of Trumpet, University of Wisconsin-Madison), Rachel Velvikis (Adjunct Professor of Horn, University of Richmond), Elisabeth Shafer (Senior Lecturer of Trombone, The University of Akron), and Gretchen Renshaw James (Assistant Professor of Music, Hendrix College). 

Seraph was thrilled to join the University of Iowa community as Artists in Virtual Residence. Along with offering individual private lessons to Iowa students, they gave four group master classes and an additional three master classes per instrument group. The classes provided student engagement activities, packets, worksheets, and career resources to inspire students long after the class ended.  

November 8th started the residency off with a group master class on arranging for brass quintet. Each member talked about what it takes to be a great arranger, including how to pick a piece, how to manage instrumentation hurdles, and general tips for brass arranging. Afterwards, everyone split up into breakout rooms where the students had a chance to work in small groups to create the first part of a Bach organ arrangement for brass. The class ended with everyone together, sharing their ideas. Seraph strives to create virtual workshops that allow students to engage in active tasks. 

November 12th saw the “Chamber Music: Demystifying the Experience” class, which focused on tools and tips for sounding your best when playing in chamber groups. The group covered a wide array of topics. Samayoa began the session with a short overview on balance and blend concepts. Renshaw James then led a discussion on intonation encouraging students to tune together as a group in addition to tuning to A=440. Samayoa and Renshaw James then spoke on standing vs. sitting while playing, and the ever important topic of helpful and healthy communication. The team also talked about nonverbal communication tips (cueing, breathing, etc.). Shafer offered score study advice, demonstrating how she marks her score via screen share. The remaining members sealed the class with an online virtual coaching for two groups. Students were constantly invited to ask any questions and share observations.

Bowden led the class on December 3rd, “Entrepreneurship and Forming Your Own Chamber Group.” Bowden demonstrated a variety of ways that different professional groups operate. Shafer then spoke on the importance and materials for an Electronic Press Kit (EPK).  A “Career Checklist” had been created for students to engage in career goal conversations. Laurenz then steered the conversation towards building bitesize “smart goals” as a way to break your long term plans up into realistic steps. Renshaw James then talked about booking professional work and Velvikis closed out with very practical tips on time and group management. 

December 6th was Seraph’s final group master class, “Technology and Chamber Music.” Renshaw James began by outlining ways in which technology can enhance rehearsal and individual practice sessions. Seraph members shared their favorite apps which include Blackbinder, SoundCorset, Tonal Energy, Time Guru, RØDE Rec, and others. Shafer then showed the class how to create collaborative video performances remotely using audio and video software. She demonstrated with a Seraph Brass video collaboration. Seraph Brass was very impressed by the brass students and faculty at the University of Iowa. They are grateful to have fostered a memorable connection with this wonderful community during a pandemic. 

Seraph Brass was also thrilled to offer similar classes to other institutions including Arkansas State, Indiana University, the University of Pennsylvania, Plum High School, and more. They will continue to grow their virtual initiative and foster educational connections for brass around the world in 2021. You can visit their website to learn more about Seraph Brass Virtual Offerings.

(Source: Seraph Brass)

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