Screen display of SBPs virtual Convo from Wed., April 29, 2020

Photo by Malachi Hinds

Screen display of SBP’s virtual Convo from Wed., April 29, 2020

Behind the Scenes at Convo

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

This is my basic “virtual Convo” ritual. It’s the start to the magic that happens behind the scenes.

7:30 a.m. 

“CALIFORNIAAAAA GUURRRLS.” The song sung by Katy Perry is the alarm that immediately summons me from my slumber.  I quickly get out of bed in order to be able to freshen up and take my daily dose of Frosted Flakes cereal.

7:58 a.m.

 I am ready to join the pre-Virtual Convocation Zoom call in order to prepare for the actual convocation. But, as I am about to join, I realize I am still in my pajamas and quickly put my school hoodie on. 

Friday, March 13, 2020

SBP Headmaster Fr. Edwin Leahy, O.S.B., Dr. Glenn Cassidy, and Senior leaders started talking through the idea of holding Convo for all via computer early on Friday, March 13, as the school was forced to move online due to the coronavirus pandemic. Ideas were thrown around and at some moment holding Convo on Instagram live was strongly considered. Eventually the decision to do a virtual online Convocation via YouTube livestream was agreed upon as the most accessible option to the broadest swath of people.  And this is what hundreds have been watching in these weeks of quarantine, from all corners of the globe. 

Late March, 2020

As health regulations became more restrictive — meaning that no one but members of the monastery could be on the Newark Abbey property — Fr. Ed and others agreed it was time to switch to include teachers and students from their homes, while still maintaining a live feed from the Shanley Gym.

Using Zoom we gathered for a couple of meeting days before the first “new” virtual Convo which would premiere on Friday, March 27. During these meeting days we practiced and brainstormed on what this new way could look like.

 After those meetings everyone’s roles were pretty clear. Dr. Lansang, who leads singing at Convo, would serve as director or emcee , along with the help of Dr. Cassidy. Director of Technology Mr. Dexter Lopina would work as the technical producer. Br. Asiel Rodriguez, O.S.B., and Benedictine Volunteer Jack Barsody would film the monks’ prayer service in the Shanley and stream it.

The schedule was set to be like this: Ahead of time, Dr. Lansang will email a script containing the text of prayers and announcements to any student assigned the duty for that day. Thirty minutes before Convo, any student participating joins the Zoom call. They practice speaking and double-check camera angles to make sure they can be seen.

Friday, March 27 

The first day we did it, it was stressful. No one wanted to make a mistake. We wanted the production to look professional. 

Back to now

Now, the event is more routine. I could say, in fact, it has become second nature to us due to the hard work and attention to detail brought to this 8:00 a.m. Zoom call every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. 

Malachi Hinds also contributed to this article

This is part of a continuing blog tracking the highs and lows of life in the St. Benedict’s community as its members weather the effects of a worldwide coronavirus outbreak.

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