On Friday the Santa Monica High School Jazz Band will host its first live concert in almost a year, and thanks to an open source software called Jamulus, it will be entirely online and perfectly in-time.

The students are beyond jazzed to be performing together again and the program directors are thrilled that they’ve been able to accomplish a feat they previously believed was impossible.

Live virtual performances were initially ruled out due the time lag between devices, so for months students were recording their musical sections separately and sorely missing the ability to jam, improvise, and play with their peers.

“If you’ve ever been on Zoom and tried to sing happy birthday to somebody, it’s hilarious because everybody is way off with their timing,” said Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator Tom Whaley. “So when we first had that experience of being on Jamulus and counting off 1-2-3-4: ‘bam’ and everybody played together on the first note it was incredible. We haven’t experienced that in a year and we were really craving it.”

The Jamulus software mixes and equalizes input and sends it back to each musician with minimal lag. Jazz Band President Lydia Muraro discovered the program and worked hard to get access to a high speed server and provide cables, computers, and microphones to all students when needed.

It is thanks to her time and effort and the support of Samohi’s music and IT departments that students are able to play together again.

“Music is a way to express yourself. All these kids want to do is get together; they want to trade chords, they want to interact, and they haven’t had that, so they’ve been dying on the inside,” said Muraro. “They all have said thank you profusely and how this year jazz band has been basically the highlight of their week.”

Friday’s concert will be directed by Tom Whaley and Ryan Rowles and streamed live on Youtube at 5 p.m. and can be accessed from www.samohijazz.com. The performance will kick off with the intermediate Jazz 2 group and be followed by the advanced Jazz 1 group.

Students will get to introduce their pieces and improvise live to their audience.

“I’m really proud of their preparation and how they still get the chills in them when they give an introduction live just like a real performance,” said Whaley.

Even with Jamulus, performing online is challenging but Whaley isn’t cutting the players any slack and said they’ve truly risen to the occasion.

“One of the songs is Superstition and it’s got really complicated syncopated rhythms alongside very fast 16th notes,” said Whaley. “They’re doing an incredible job with it, even though I pushed them on it.”

Santa Monica High School has a renowned and award winning music program. It is one of the only high school’s incorporating Jamulus into it’s arts education and recently hosted UCLA professors in the Jazz Band practice so they could learn from the Samohi model.

Whaley plans on bringing famous jazz performers like trumpet player Wayne Bergeron into the jazz band’s virtual practices, ensuring that students still get the same high-level exposure they would in person.

Through the creative and dedicated work of the entire music department team, the seemingly impossible challenge of virtual band practice has become a delight for all the students.

“Every single kid has showed up 100 percent of the time 100 percent online,” said Muraro. “They’ve been really engaged and we’ve seen great growth in their music education.”

Clara@smdp.com