Strike Up the Band! (With a Bit of Technology, Too)

Posted: March 4, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Catherine Ferraro

When something works well, it doesn’t hurt to try it again.

About this same time last year, in a dynamic collaboration, Mason’s Department of Applied Information Technology (AIT) created an interactive web site to accompany a public concert of the United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own.”

This year, AIT and the band will join forces to provide the same presentation, but this time with a few novel features. The concert will take place at Kenmore Middle School in Arlington, Va., on Thursday, March 5, at 7:30 p.m.

The partnership developed when Capt. David Paroby, director of the U.S. Army Ceremonial Band, had the idea of combining a technology component with band music to generate more interest in band and music among school-age children. In fall 2007, Paroby called on Charles Snow, associate chair and associate professor of AIT to create a web site providing an experience for both the live audience and people viewing at home.

Snow worked on a model for a web concert program guide that displays the titles of each selection played throughout the performance. The idea was to replace printed paper program guides with a web-based version, which was projected on a screen at the performance venue and was also available to anyone via the web site during the concert.

He also developed a web site for listeners at home to follow and listen to the live program. Following the lead of Ken Santucci, adjunct professor of AIT, they created and produced two silent video montages shown during the concert. Audience members were able to vote via SMS messaging or the web site for the next selection the band should play based on the feelings evoked from the video montages.

The first montage, titled “October,” featured scenes of technology history dating back to the 1950s, such as newsreel footage of the Sputnik launch. The second montage, titled “Trauersinfonie,” included more somber scenes, such as photos of Arlington National Cemetery.

This year’s concert will again feature the web concert program guide available to audience members at the concert and at home, as well as the two video montages. But this year, Snow and Daniel Hurt, an undergraduate student with a minor in AIT, developed another component to the web site to support the U.S. Army Band’s “Arlington Idol” contest.

In the final round of competition for “Arlington Idol,” four students from Arlington County Public Schools will perform a vocal solo accompanied by members of the U.S. Army Band Downrange.

For this portion of the concert, Snow and Hurt designed a separate poll that would support votes from the audience for the winner of “Arlington Idol.”

“I felt that it was important to be a part of this partnership to show what the Department of Applied Information Technology can do in a less-traditional application arena,” says Snow. “It’s also a great opportunity to promote the university and the Volgenau School of Information Technology and Engineering.”

Snow adds, “I hope our partnership with the U.S. Army Band continues to be an annual event.”

To participate in the U.S. Army Band performance via the web, visit the concert multimedia web site.

For more information about the U.S. Army Band, visit the web site.

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