A Screen Away: How Jamulus Brings Musicians Together
As the Wind Orchestra begins their rehearsal, Caitlyn Meyer ’21 raises her saxophone and begins playing. She continues playing with the Wind Orchestra as Dr. James Ripley guides the ensemble through each piece, perfecting each section. The orchestra may work on blending instrumental sections, refining their musical phrases, or reinforcing stylistic techniques. When the rehearsal ends, Meyer ’21 puts down her instrument and closes her computer. Meyer ’21 is a remote student and through the hard work of multiple Carthage faculty members, is able to continue rehearsing with the Wind Orchestra through Jamulus.
With Carthage accommodating both in-person and remote students, the Carthage community has had to use new technology and software to create the best learning environment possible. In many classes, students and faculty connect over video conferencing software such as ZOOM. While video conferencing software creates opportunities to recreate the lectures and discussions seen in traditional classes, it does not work as well for musical ensembles. Programs such as ZOOM have a high enough latency that it can be difficult for remote musicians to stay together as an ensemble. To counteract the audio latency, the Wind Orchestra and Concert Band have implemented Jamulus in their rehearsals for their remote students. Jamulus is an open-source program that allows musicians to collaborate and rehearse remotely. By sending compressed audio to its servers, Jamulus ends up having extremely little latency between the musicians.
For remote students such as Caitlyn, their audio is sent to a server in Chicago and then sent to Carthage’s network. Their audio is then played into the earpiece of the ensemble director. This allows for more opportunities for feedback and instruction, while preventing audio mixing issues with the in-person ensemble. The ensemble also records their audio through microphones placed throughout the room and sends it through Jamulus back to the remote students. For the remote students, it is essential for them to use headphones while rehearsing to ensure that their microphone does not record the music being sent to them. On the ensemble’s side, the remote students are only heard by the music director to prevent feedback issues that come with projecting the music through a speaker.
Students are also collaborating with each other virtually in an AMATI chamber ensemble. This ensemble uses Jamulus to rehearse together while remaining in separate locations. The Carthage Music Department is looking at ways to showcase the students’ hard work through a live performance with Jamulus.
In addition to using Jamulus, the Carthage Music Department has used ZOOM to create socially distant rehearsals. For the Concert Band, students are separated into two rooms, the recital hall and the band room. Similar to the remote rehearsals, microphones are set throughout both rooms and record the musicians. Going through Carthage’s network, the latency is low enough that the musicians can rehearse together by listening to the audio.
This is still a work in progress. The Music Department is hard at work to improve the remote methods to provide the best opportunities to all its students. For now, Jamulus and ZOOM have provided remote students and larger ensembles the opportunity to rehearse together while maintaining social distancing guidelines. With these pieces of software, communal music making is just a screen away.