Miss live shows? Miami professor’s YouTube series provides classical performances

A video series from a Miami University professor is proving a taste of classical music during the lack of live performances.

The Musical Snacks videos are the result of a partnership between the Oxford Community Arts Center and the Miami University Performing Arts Series. They came about last year when the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic shut down all programs including music offerings.

The mini piano concerts run between two and 20 minutes and are available on the Miami University Performing Arts Series YouTube page with a new one posted every Wednesday at noon. The entire collection dating back to last October is available.

The pieces are researched and recorded by Miami pianist and professor of music Bruce Murray. Recordings are done in the ballroom of the Oxford Community Arts Center.

“We decided early on to keep them brief. The attention span online is different than in a live concert,” Murray said. “They are here for the people and they seem to like it. I do it because it’s what you are supposed to do if you are in the arts, you’ve got to do it.”

Murray said it takes him an hour to get the audio and video equipment set up before he can even play what he is planning for the day, often several pieces at a time, but he said playing in the empty ballroom causes him some audio problems. He then needs to go back and record them again.

“Bruce gets all the credit. He goes in alone and sets it up by himself. He sets up the audio and video,” said Gwenmarie Ewing, assistant director of the Performing Arts Series. “He takes quite a bit of time trying to find pieces of music that are short and could be that break in the middle of the day. A lot of people e-mail to tell us it is the best break in their day. One woman said she sends them to her daughter in Taiwan.”

Murray said he is enjoying the Musical Snacks programs because he is able to use works by a wide variety of composers, some well-known and some less known to regular concert attendees. There are problems, however.

“It’s not difficult finding short pieces, but it is a bit tough finding those not in copyright. I want things different from white male composers. I try to find some female composers or composers of color. Almost all are complete pieces but a few pieces have been special things,” he said. “I recorded some I can’t use. I did a copyright search and found I could not use them.”

Musical Snacks programs will continue without a definite ending time.

“The feeling was we would go until there are concerts again, but in my mind, I will not do more than 52. I imagine things will be happening in the fall,” he said.

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