Building Community in a Virtual Environment

When I participated in Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir last year, one of the fringe benefits was that I became part of this bustling and caring online community. You can read more about my VC3 experience here. It's an amazing group. Everyone is eager to cheer you on - whether it you are preparing for a performance or job interview, surgery or pregnancy. My fellow VCers are usually the first to "Like" a Facebook status by another VCer.

Things get pretty exciting leading up to a Virtual Choir submission deadline. As Eric Whitacre has said on more than one occasion, singers are procrastinators. That final week leading up to the submission deadline was just nuts.

Last year, we crashed the server when the last minute submissions skyrocketed. Not only that, helpful singers wound up in "Facebook Jail" for posting too much in the VC groups on Facebook.

This year, a forum was added to Eric's website, which eased the strain on the Facebook group. As the deadline approached the Ohana Thread was created in the EW forums. Many of those who landed in FB Jail last year were official moderators this year, volunteering their time to help a complete stranger with their submission.

On the eve of the VC4 deadline, June 9th, a few of us got a message from one of our VC friends: "If you can help out, log into the Forums. The mods have gone to bed and there are a lot of people who need help." Although it made for a long night, going into the wee hours of the morning of D-Day, it was great troubleshooting in a Google Hangout with VC friends from British Columbia, New Orleans, California and London, UK.

As Virtual Choir members counted down to the June 10 VC4 submission deadline, several wound up either trolling the Facebook groups (the website kept going up and down), joining a global Google Hangout, or both. Right up to the last second, members were helping others with their submissions, giving moral support and virtual high-fives.

I passed the deadline in one of the global hangouts while trying to help someone with her submission (she managed to get one video submitted). Shortly after the deadline passed, our group decided to celebrate by singing VC4 - "Fly". With singers from Singapore, USA, Canada, Puerto Rico and Austria, the time lag made singing in sync difficult. However, the opportunity to sing together, in real-time, was a truly magical, communal experience.