My Current State

The good news is that now, after outlining my milestones and action steps, I finally have a timeline that outlines the number of days that I will spend working on each milestone, and the deadlines by which each milestone needs to be completed.

The bad news is that now I can see exactly where my time management skills (or lack thereof) are failing me, and know that the clock is ticking down towards the end of my time here at Propel.

And here it is.

screenshot excel blog

Here’s the timeline that tracks the time that should be spent on each milestone and shows the progress that should have been made by each day of the semester.

Last week, I completed the “File Hierarchy/Spreadsheet” Milestone, which took me less time than I had originally planned, leaving me to work on learning the different parts of the song and creating the Facebook group. I found out that the sheet music I ordered online would arrive the next week, leaving me with no time to learn the song, but I found that I could buy the music and print it at home instead, saving me time that could have been wasted. I also completed the letter of instruction that singers will use to help guide their song submissions.

This week, I have worked on finishing the milestone “Creating the Group”. I’ve drafted the group descriptions and the invitation to join the group, but I’ve struggled with finding parent groups that I can join as many of them are either private or not well suited to the project’s purpose. This means that I don’t have enough people currently added to the group, and I need to scour the inter-webs to recruit more singers. I also need to create a cover image for the group.

I have also fallen behind at recording the bed-tracks. The song’s different vocal parts are fairly easy to learn, as they are repetitive and their ranges are small, but recording often takes much more time than originally planned. I recorded the alto part, but the lack of time in the studio because of the week being shorter has impeded the recording progress. I’m planning on working hard in the studio to record the tracks, and I’ve also realized that my father has recording equipment that I can also use, although I would prefer to record in the music room.

Realizing that I’m already behind in my project sucks. It is painful to realize that I haven’t been able to manage my time well and be ready for the deadlines that I had originally set for myself. However, this realization of my own failings has inspired me to work harder than ever in the next few weeks. I hope to finish both the “Creating the Group” and the “Recording” milestones completed by the end of this week. After that, I will be e-mailing each member of the Facebook group to provide them with the bed-tracks to the songs and the instructions. I am not worried about having every single participant in the group immediately, because more can join the group slightly later if necessary (just as long as they meet the recording submission deadline). The next few weeks will be spent waiting for submissions to trickle in. Once I have enough recordings, I will begin to mix them in GarageBand. I know the next few weeks will likely be frustrating and time-consuming, but I know that with discipline and the fear of failure looming above my head, I can get it done.

Until next time,

Audrey

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Turning Ideas Into Action

The past few weeks have been a constant, uninterrupted stream of stress that a week’s break from school did nothing to curb. I’ve been swamped in math homework, stressed over Junior Achievement, and choosing the song that I would be using for this project proved very difficult, as it seemed that every time I was close to choosing a piece, I would then find something I didn’t like about it, and the hunt for the perfect song would begin again. The one thing going for me is that now I have a clear idea of the steps I will need to complete my project. With my teachers, I went over my action plan, the step by step guide as to how I will accomplish all the milestones that I have set for my project. While no real changes have been made to my project, I now have a better understanding of the work I will need to put into each step. Here are my milestones that I need to achieve in order to complete everything I have set out to do.

#1 Create the Group

The beginning stage requires me to create a Facebook group that I will use to reach singers across Manitoba. I will post invitations to join my group in pre-existing groups. After gaining enough members, I will send each member a direct message to solicit their email addresses and to provide them with my own.

#2 Record the Reference Tracks

The next step is to determine the song that I will use and to learn all the song’s different vocal parts. I will then record the different vocal parts in our recording studio to use as bed-tracks.

#3 Create File Hierarchy and a Spreadsheet in Excel

After Step #2, I’m going to create different folders in OneDrive that will help me to stay organized and to know where all the files that I have sent and received are, and create a spreadsheet that tracks the submissions.

#4 Exchanging

The next stage is a waiting game. I need to receive all the recordings sent in by group members, and after the submission deadline passes, I will filter out the ones I don’t want.

#5 Mixing

Here comes the fun (and time-consuming) part. I will be aligning the tracks that I’ve received to the bed-tracks and correcting the timing of each track. Then, I can add pitch correction and fun effects.

#6 Mentorship

I want the track to sound as good as possible, and since I’m not exactly a master at mixing (yet), I will find a mentor experienced with audio engineering and apply the feedback that they give me.

#7 Publicity

To create buzz leading up to the song’s release date, I will be reaching out to various news organizations that have previously covered Propel students’ projects in the hopes that they might interview me and help me to promote the project.

#8 Sharing the Song

The final step is to create an MP3 of the song and share it on social media! Finally, everyone who has been following the project’s journey will be able to hear the finished product.

When you break each stage of the product down into smaller tasks, the project begins to feel…real. It’s no longer a hazy, undefined pipe-dream. However, I’ve now realized that the amount of work required to complete this project to the best of my ability is substantial, to say the least.

The remainder of this week will be spent creating the Facebook group and posting invitations to join in pre-existing groups. To create a professional looking space and to attract more people to the group, I will need to create a cover photo and a description of the project. I will also begin working on the file hierarchies and the spreadsheet, so that this milestone will be done by the time I’m ready to record. Since the sheet music that I’ve ordered hasn’t arrived yet, this will delay the recording process, but I’m hopeful that completing the aforementioned steps in advance will make my life easier and prevent me from having any stress-induced breakdowns (who am I kidding, I’m still going to have that problem anyways).

Until next time,

Audrey

One Voice

After the two arduous weeks that I spent crafting my Proof of Concept, which were filled with a plethora of technical difficulties and stress-induced headaches, I finally have a taste of the journey I will be embarking on over the course of Propel. A long and difficult road that veers off the beaten path and treads into unknown territory for this weary traveler, but one that leads to a beautiful destination, if only I am determined enough to get there.

My project is the creation of a virtual choir. The idea first began to flicker in my brain a few years ago, after I was shown a YouTube video of a song performed by a chorus of hundreds. Their voices blended seamlessly, as though they had performed together for years. Yet, none of them had ever met. The concept of many different people, from across the globe and from all different backgrounds coming together to create an awe-inspiring piece of music has stuck with me throughout the years. It has always lingered in the back of my mind that someday, when I am much older and more experienced, I will finally realize this pipe dream of mine. However, now that I’m in this program, I realize that there is no point in waiting when I now have the opportunity to achieve something worthwhile with my time.

The project’s focus, or “what reigns supreme” as our teachers call it, is the involvement of an outside community in the creation of a piece of music. I want to showcase the voices of 30 singers from all across Manitoba in the final product. To me, the creation of community with others has always been the most transformative part of making music. At the end of the day, it isn’t about how well you perform; it’s about making connections along the way and fostering valuable skills like teamwork and leadership. I realize that my project is less traditional in its approach to community building than a regular choir, but by using the power of technology and social media, I can connect with people I would have otherwise never met and involve my home province in the creation of something special.

How will I accomplish this? My first step is to choose a piece of choral music that is approximately two minutes long with singing parts for sopranos, altos, tenors, and basses. The next is to record myself singing each individual part for the singers to use as a guide. I then need to create a Facebook page to connect with at least 60 singers in Manitoba and to promote my project to the public. I will upload the guide tracks to a system of cloud-based storage and provide the singers with detailed instructions of how to sing their part. Their recordings will be uploaded to the cloud and I will track each submission in an Excel document. After that, I will decide which 30 out of those 60 voices I want to use. Next, I will line up all the recordings, correct any timing errors, and mix all the tracks together to the point of sounding like one uniform voice. I will then receive feedback as to how I can improve the song’s mix from a mentor experienced in audio engineering. The finished track will be uploaded to SoundCloud and shared on my Facebook platform.

In order to accomplish exactly what I need to, I will need to work diligently for the rest of the semester. The next few weeks will be mainly focused on finalizing the song I will be using, recording each vocal part and creating a Facebook page to promote the project. I will likely work on choosing the song and creating the page over the spring break, and record in our recording studio when I return. I’m determined to use my time effectively and to avoid the temptation to neglect working on my project, even when I feel frustrated and unsatisfied with my progress. As two of my favourite teachers often say, “Fail often to succeed faster.”

Until next time,

Audrey

New Beginnings

It’s been three weeks since I entered the mysterious world of PROPEL. The months before my PROPEL debut were filled with a mix of excitement and terror. I already had a general understanding of how the program worked and heard from several of my friends of the trials and tribulations they had undergone in their semester. Still, it seemed like a secret club that only a blessed few could dream to be a part of. What if I didn’t fit in there? What if my project was a massive flop? What if, in the end, this venture turned out to be a waste of time and I ended the semester with nothing but a half-baked project and mountains of regret?

I didn’t know what to make of my first few days of my new life. It was fascinating to meet new people and learn of their project ideas. To learn, by observing and listening, what their raison d’être was, what made them tick. As interesting as meeting all these new people was, it was also intimidating. I didn’t feel like I stacked up against my peers. The idea that I was, at my core, fundamentally untalented, uninspired, began to burrow itself in my mind.

Though I talk of fearful nights spent examining my reasoning for my decision to join this program, the truth of why I am, at heart, right for PROPEL manifested itself in a conversation with a friend. She had asked me what my project would be, knowing the nature of the program and what it would entail. I thought about it carefully for a moment. “The problem is… I have so many ideas, I don’t know which one to choose”.

It occurred to me then that I might be in the right place after all. I’ve been working on half-finished projects my whole life. Books, songs, art pieces, you name it. I’ve done it, but never to completion. I realized that by having an entire semester dedicated to completing an entire project I could craft and perfect something that, in the end, I could be proud of.

In the coming weeks, my main focus is to complete my Proof of Concept. My Proof of Concept is to record seven of my friends singing different parts of a song, compiling the audio and mixing all the voices together into one track. I’m excited to find a song and begin to record! I am anticipating technical difficulties and a shortage of time being the main struggles that I face, but I’m hoping to find the willpower and perseverance I need to push through and complete it on time.

Until next time,

Audrey.