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The 2020 Heifetz Virtual Summer Institute

In this uniquely challenging time, the Heifetz Institute was the first major summer program to create a meaningful summertime experience in the digital realm, built upon the Heifetz Institute’s unique vision, values, & assets.

The Heifetz Institute took the bold step to innovate a six-week virtual Institute for Summer 2020, adhering to the overall structure of the Institute’s normal summertime routines. Led by Artistic Director Nicholas Kitchen’s firm conviction that for so many of our students, a summer without the focus, intensity, and learning potential of an elite summer program like ours would be catastrophic for their development, 100 students and 45 faculty members from around the world in 9 time zones attended the Institute. This activity was crucial to not only maintaining, but also furthering, our artistic mission.

How the Heifetz Institute Made The Virtual Leap

Heifetz Faculty member Annabella Lenzu teaches a Zoom class about communication training

1. Intensive Online Instrumental Training & Communication Training

Students received two private one-hour lessons and one studio class per week, and continued to work with pianists in their assigned studio via the latest studio-recording collaboration technology. A platform and schedule was designed so that all students could have the opportunity to prepare meaningful performances – whether solo, as online collaborations with pianists, and even string quartets. Communication Training classes with actors, directors, choreographers and other artists, as well as one-on-one sessions with Communication Training Director Daniel Pettrow, continued to serve as the other foundational element. In all, 1,408 lessons, studio classes, recording sessions, & chamber coachings were scheduled during the course of the Institute.

2. The Student Experience

Our Student Experience team facilitated the extracurricular activities that make a summer at Heifetz so meaningful. Students received Diversity & Equity training, one-on-one mentoring, and could join Discord channels to connect with fellow students based on interests from Harry Potter and Star Wars to Art & Crafts, Cooking, & Bible Study. Seminars on topics including instrument repair and maintenance, recording techniques, manuscript study, and behavioral science further enriched student’s growth during the summer.

Heifetz Faculty Member Jonathan Vacanti teaches a Zoom seminar on Instrument care
heifetz students' dashboard that organizes and displays all of their resources and activities

3. The Virtual Toolkit

The staff employed a wide variety of assets in order to facilitate 165 participants across 12 countries and 9 time zones, including: Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, Google Classroom, Discord, Google Calendar, Airtable, Garageband, Reaper, OneStream Live, Adobe Premiere, Final Cut, and Filmora. The use of studio microphones and headphones by all participants ensured audio quality for instrumental lessons and recordings. Students received ongoing training in audio and video production, gaining valuable skills that will continue to serve them during their education and careers.

4. Community Service

To continue the longstanding tradition of community service during the summer program, the Heifetz Institute partnered with Augusta Health to offer one-on-one concerts via Zoom to their patient and resident populations who are isolated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The exchanges provided inspiration and a sense of community to those who in many cases have been isolated and lacking meaningful social interaction for weeks or even months.

heifetz student performs virtually for August Health patients

Rubato: Virtual Concert Hall

In addition to creating a new paradigm in online training, the Institute continued to connect students with music lovers, supporters, and patrons both locally and worldwide through our Virtual Concert Hall. 317 new performances were produced, with 49 free broadcasts (63 total hours) through the Institute’s industry-leading YouTube and Facebook channels in partnership with The Violin Channel. Performers established a shared approach to each section of a piece of music, then exchanged recordings back and forth in a “checkerboard collaboration” which were then assembled by our Multimedia team.

Here’s a three-part step-by-step video tutorial from Heifetz Institute Artistic Director Nicholas Kitchen on how to create a collaborative chamber music recording when it’s not possible to rehearse and play together in the same space.