DUBLIN, CA — The Wells Middle School bands look forward to the Spring Concert every May. Students began practicing in February, but when Alameda County issued its shelter-in-place order, it became clear that the show could not go on.
The ten students who comprise the school's Jazz Combo group still found a way to make it happen.
They were planning a surprise performance of "Birdland" for longtime school music teacher Erik Bertelson, said Vikram Kalyanaraman, a musician and dad to Jazz Combo drummer, Akash.
Kalyanaraman, who owns Digital Harmony Productions in Dublin, said he had hosted just four rehearsal sessions for the students at his home when the shelter-in-place order forced them to cancel their plans. By April it was clear that schools would remain closed
They decided to film the video in secret and carry on with the surprise for Bertelson, he said.
Kalyanaraman's son Akash recorded himself playing the drums, then students recorded their parts and solos separately while listening to Akash's backing track. Kalyanaraman estimated he spent 80 to 100 hours splicing the video together and editing the song.
The students first shared the song with their beloved teacher, whose reaction was priceless, Kalyanaraman said. Bertelson told the musicians he would long treasure their gift and loved to see them playing together again.
"For me, it has been a really fun project to work on, providing the opportunity to showcase these kids’ talent, while creating lockdown memories and finding a way to say thank you to Mr. Bertelson for the amazing years of music he gave our kids," Kalyanaraman wrote in an email.
Video embedded from The Wells Middle School/Facebook