Back in May, two months into the coronavirus pandemic and campus closure, the semester was coming to a close and Music Prof. John Shirley felt the sting of all that he was missing.
He lamented the prospect of a summer without live music delivered in person, in public.
He missed the faculty blues group he had assembled for live shows. And he especially missed interacting with students.
So Shirley, who is quick to embrace technology, bought a video camera, immersed himself in how-to videos on YouTube, rounded up a gang of eight fellow faculty and made “We’d Rather Be with You,” a loving ode to the UML campus and those who inhabit it.
The 3-minute, 28-second song by the “Socially Distanced Faculty Funk Band” is based on the rubbery funk of Bootsy Collins’ “I’d Rather be with You.” Shirley retooled the lyrics (including such lines as “We miss your smiling faces in our classrooms, but until school comes back we’ll have to Zoom”) and incorporated references to masks and hand-washing.
Shirley posted the video, which opens with the dedication “For our students during the pandemic,” on Facebook. It racked up more than 6,000 views in the first 48 hours.
The production was a lesson in creative social distancing. Shirley scheduled video shoots with each of the band members, including one who had recently recovered form COVID-19. He created a demo for others to play to and then assembled, mixed and edited their parts. Some contributions were recorded in home studios, others were recorded as MP3s on smartphones. He edited the video using Adobe Premier.
The video opens with hyperlapse scenes of East, North and South campuses and Durgin Hall, home of the Music Department. It includes scenes shot at Boarding House Park (Alan Williams and Tim Crain), at peoples’ homes and even in the Newton Public Library parking lot.
Shirley worked weekends and even pulled an all-nighter to finish the project, but says the “huge undertaking” was well worth it.
“Being able to connect with my colleagues musically during this time made a huge difference to my spirits,” Shirley said. “They are truly an amazing bunch of musicians, and fantastic people!”
The Socially Distanced Faculty Funk Band includes:
- Asst. Teaching Prof. Tim Crain (Music History) - vocals
- Adjunct Faculty Andy Fordyce (Applied Drums) - drums
- Visiting Lecturer Chuck Gabriel (Applied Bass) - bass
- Adjunct Faculty Jacob Hiser (Applied Piano) - keyboards
- Asst. Prof. Elissa Johnson-Green (Music Studies) - whistle
- Adjunct Faculty Savannah Marshall, (Music Studies) - vocals and percussion
- Assoc. Teaching Prof. Josh Millard (Music Performance) - guitar
- Prof. John Shirley (Sound Recording Technology and Composition for New Media) - vocals and percussion
- Prof. Alan Williams (Music Business) - vocals