UNL's Glenn Korff School of Music begins webcasting concerts this fall

The seats in Kimball Recital Hall have been reupholstered and repaired this summer. Photo by Michael Reinmiller.
The seats in Kimball Recital Hall have been reupholstered and repaired this summer. Photo by Michael Reinmiller.

UNL's Glenn Korff School of Music begins webcasting concerts this fall

calendar icon25 Aug 2014    

This fall, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Glenn Korff School of Music will begin regular webcasting of selected concerts in Kimball Recital Hall to help reach a worldwide audience for its world-class performances.

“We’ve consulted with people who are doing this as well as anybody in the world, and we think we’re benefitting a lot to get a successful launch to this initiative,” said John W. Richmond, Director of the Glenn Korff School of Music.

Richmond has been involved with the fine and performing arts group of Internet2 since before he came to UNL in 2003. Internet2 (http://www.internet2.edu) is a community of leaders in research, academia, industry and government who create and collaborate via innovative technologies.

“They’ve been involved in a range of kinds of initiatives that involve internet applications in the fine arts, webcasting being one of them,” Richmond said.

Richmond was interested in pursuing webcasting at UNL and brought David Bagby, the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts’ Information Technology Services Manager, into the process. They looked at what other schools were doing and attended several conferences. Jeff O’Brien, the Glenn Korff School of Music’s Information Technology Associate, has also been key in coordinating the technology for the project.

“Part of the problem, in addition to the technology piece because we didn’t have the bandwidth when I got here to think about doing this with any reliability and quality, was the intellectual property question,” Richmond said. “Copyright law changes almost daily.”

Furthermore, the university’s ambitious recruiting goals to grow UNL to 30,000 students also presented an opportunity.

“We need to reach new audiences and new prospective students,” Richmond said. “But we also needed to be prepared to respond to the disappointment that parents of students from vast distances would have that they would send their son or daughter off to school to a place and then never be able to hear them in recital or in performance of some kind.”

Following the university’s investment recently in bandwidth and infrastructure and the copyright issues being resolved, there was still a big, initial investment hurdle and finding a willing partner to overcome. Richmond reached out to NET.

“We told them we were not sure if it will work, but we’d like to try it, and they said we’d like that, too, because it allows all of us to push UNL content out to our stakeholders across the state using a resource in addition to our television and radio network resources,” Richmond said.

Then, Glenn Korff made an investment last fall in the School of Music resulting in naming the school in his honor.

“Suddenly we were in a position to use some resources from that to get over the big hump of the initial investment in camera, controllers and other things,” Richmond said.

The Glenn Korff School of Music and NET did a series of test webcasts last spring that went well.

“The experiments went better than we possibly could have hoped,” Richmond said. “We now have the ability to format the webcast so it would appear on a computer, a tablet, a smartphone; it would reformat itself automatically for whatever device is receiving it. All of that is now in place and automated, so really the stage was set.”

Last spring, one of the webcasting tests was done for a Wind Ensemble concert, and Richmond heard feedback from one student who comes from the West Coast and whose parents have never been able to attend a concert in person. The student’s father traveled a lot for business.

“When we webcast the concert, he was in Beijing, China. There’s a 13-hour time difference. We had our concert at 7:30 p.m. local time, and he said he had the Wind Ensemble concert for breakfast. He watched it in his hotel room and said it was perfect,” Richmond said. “You can’t get much farther away on the planet than Beijing, China, or cross more hurdles, in terms of distance and technology. And yet it performed to this standard.”

Three cameras will be installed initially in Kimball Hall, with plans to eventually expand to seven there. An additional two cameras are being installed in the Westbrook Recital Hall. NET is able to run the cameras and do the behind-the-scenes work remotely from their studio on East Campus.

“Conspicuously absent from our webcast offerings this fall is dance because our dance events take place in venues where there are no cameras,” Richmond said. “But we will figure that out. That’s on our list of things to do.”

A mix of performances have been selected to be webcast that will be advertised in the Glenn Korff School of Music’s semester calendar of events, representing approximately one performance a week that will be webcast. Additional events, including student recitals, will be added later and advertised on the Glenn Korff School of Music website.

“We set up a stratification matrix,” Richmond said. “We wanted some vocal performances and some instrumental performances; large groups; small groups; solos; student and faculty performances. So that’s the matrix we had to juggle.”

The first concert to be webcast this fall will be Hixson-Lied Professor of Piano Mark Clinton’s faculty recital on Sept. 18 at 7:30 p.m. His recital is titled “The Poetry and Passion of the Piano” and includes works by Robert Schumann, Ludwig van Beethoven, Frederic Chopin, Johannes Brahms and Jean Sibelius.

“I’m very excited to be part of this new venture as the Glenn Korff School of Music reaches out to audiences around the world,” Clinton said. “My preparations will not be any different because of the webcast—I simply have the honor and privilege of playing for a larger, more extended audience.”

Other performances scheduled to be webcast this fall include the University of Nebraska Brass Quintet on Sept. 29; the Wind Ensemble on Oct. 8; University Singers on Oct. 16; The Moran Woodwind Quintet on Nov. 13; Cocoa and Carols on Dec. 7; and the Symphony Orchestra on Dec. 11.

Audiences shouldn’t notice much of a difference when attending a webcast performance.

“We’re trying to make the technologies completely unobtrusive, either to the performer or to the audience who comes to our live events,” Richmond said. “If our experience is like other higher education institutions that have begun to webcast, local audiences of live attendees don’t go down, they go up because people who were unaware of what we were doing or the standard to which we were doing it become aware of it and want to be a part of it.”

Webcasting isn’t the only change that live audiences will notice. Kimball Hall’s original 1960s seats have also been reupholstered and repaired and have had new padding and lumbar support installed, along with new lighting installed in the house and fresh paint in the lobby, thanks to an investment by UNL Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Ellen Weissinger.

Kimball Hall will be used this year to teach some large Introduction to Psychology courses that were previously taught at the Grand Theatre downtown.

Richmond said Kimball Hall remains an “awesome place to hear a concert,” whether you attend in person or stay home to watch a webcast.

“For our Lincoln friends, we hope they continue to come to our concerts. Our students don’t want to perform in a broadcast studio. They want to be in a concert hall with an appreciative audience,” he said. “But for our families and friends who are at vast distances or have to be away, there’s no excuse now for missing a concert.”

For a schedule of which concerts will be webcast or to get the link for the live broadcast, visit music.unl.edu.