ASU music students thousands of miles apart collaborate virtually

When COVID-19 forced physical distancing across the world, including at Arizona State University, Elijah Ramirez’s duet partner Yuki Kuno left Tempe to move back to Japan to be with family. But Ramirez didn’t let that keep them from their musical collaboration.

“Collaborating with other musicians is essential to me as a musician,” said Ramirez, a music education student in the School of Music in ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. “Rehearsals with the wind ensemble and our tuba/euph quartet have been informative both musically and socially. I learn the most when I get to work with the musicians here.”

After ASU moved all of its courses to an online format, Ramirez reached out to Kuno, also a music education student, about continuing their work virtually.

“Yuki and I are in the tuba/euph studio and in the same grade, so we have had lots of opportunities to collaborate in classes and outside,” Ramirez said. “We have shared two recitals and also play in a tuba/euphonium quartet.”

They posted a short video to YouTube and have plans for more collaborations.

They are also part of a quartet with Phoenix Hanes and Michael Liu. The group is continuing to work together virtually and recently posted a video of one of the collaborations.

Ramirez answered a few questions about musical collaboration and working together while physical distancing.

Question: Why did you want to do this collaboration?

Answer: We were initially asked by Dr. Deanna Swoboda to play a duet digitally and have done a couple of online collaborations together. These projects are different and similar to in-person collaborations in many ways and having this new way of interacting musically and making music has been a great way to work on different skills.

Q: Can you talk about the process of working on something together virtually — with you both being in other parts of the world?

A: Yuki is in Japan and I am still in Arizona. This obviously makes the music making process more disconnected than I am used to, but technology has also made this process easier than I would have imagined. We recorded the parts separately and put them together later in an editing software. This took planning to ensure that we were together stylistically and musically, but felt comparable to the amount of preparation we would have in normal in-person rehearsals.

Q: How was it different collaborating online vs. working together in person?

A: It was different in that the music making process was less instant and felt less collaborative in the moment, as well as having more technical hoops to jump through. On the positive side, we both had the option of recording this project at our convenience throughout the day and not having to schedule within our individual schedules, making the recording process slightly less “high stakes.” In the end, the amount of collaboration ended up being comparable, just in different ways (i.e., planning how we want to play each section in a Google doc rather than making the entire process in person).

Q: Do you plan to do more collaborations with each other or with other music students at ASU?

A: Yes! Our quartet is going strong, we plan on recording more this semester and hopefully beyond. I am grateful for any opportunity to play with other students in the school of music, and I hope that I get more opportunities during the rest of my time at ASU.

Q: Do you see virtual collaboration as something that will be done more in the future?

A: I think there are positives and negatives to recording and compiling in this way, but I would say that I could definitely see this type of collaboration becoming more common after the coronavirus. There are already many people who make music together digitally similar to this, and this situation gives musicians much more time to work on these digital skills.



ASU music students thousands of miles apart collaborate virtually was originally published in ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts