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MITWE Goes Digital by Andi Q. '25

We stan Fred in this household 😤

With all the WiFi problems in 32-12301 One of the big lecture halls in the Stata Center and PE registration website outages, it’s easy to forget nowadays that MIT is a tech school. Luckily, the MIT Wind Ensemble (MITWE) is always ahead of the curve, using cutting-edge fourth industrial revolution technology to run through walls, move fast, and break things (though not literally because musical instruments are fragile and expensive). That’s why we had our first-ever rehearsal with digital sheet music this Monday!

When I joined MITWE at the start of my freshman fall, we were still amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, we needed proper PPE, which included high-tech music accessories such as… facemasks draping over our mouthpieces and trash bags covering all other holes in our instruments.

Me playing clarinet with a bunch of PPE

Spot the clarinet. (I’m using a drawstring bag here, but I had to use a literal trash bag with an elastic band for the first few rehearsals)

Not the most exciting things in the world. Especially when you have to turn pages while wearing them; luckily, the bags did not stick around for long.

It had been more than a year since MITWE rehearsed in person as a group, so we were still figuring things out and trying to make rehearsals more streamlined. The pandemic had disrupted so many existing processes, but one good outcome was the rise of digital classroom technologies. The newfound prevalence of loaner iPads across the MIT campus must have given Dr Fred Harris (MITWE director) a brilliant idea because, during the first rehearsal of the new semester, he made an exciting announcement:

“We are going paperless, starting next week!”

MITWE was well-established as my favourite MIT class then, so this was just the cherry on top. I could hear hushed whispers amongst the ensemble as I imagined life without having to carry around hard copies of music anymore. Gone are the days of papercuts, misaligned photocopies, and dropping a stack of paper in the middle of a performance. Eco-friendly and a renewable source of HASS-A credits – talk about sustainability!

Fred blessing MITWE students with things

The music department in a nutshell

“But Andi!” I hear you cry, “How could you read sheet music off your tiny loaner iPad?”

That’s where Fred comes in.

Somehow, he pulled enough strings (pun intended, but not really because we are a wind ensemble) to convince IS&T to loan out 12.9-inch iPad pros to everyone in MITWE and the Festival Jazz Ensemble! That’s right – the ones with face ID, magnetic Apple pencils, and USB-C charging. Admittedly, this may seem overkill for reading and annotating music, but hey, I’m not complaining.

The iPad pro is like using a sword to eat a meal

What my friends imagine when they first hear about my upgrade

And to top it all off, we also got Bluetooth foot pedals to automate page-turning. I tried one out on Monday, and it just worked like magic. I felt simultaneously like a child discovering the joys of a computer and a professional musician performing in Carnegie Hall. Truly life-changing.

Foot pedal on a rainbow background


I could go on and on, but words alone cannot describe how powerful Fred is. But numbers can – 21m.42602 The class number for MITWE out of 10.

TL;DR, consider taking music classes at MIT – it’s a pretty groovy department! (Plus, MITWE is looking for a new bassoonist… 👀)

  1. One of the big lecture halls in the Stata Center back to text
  2. The class number for MITWE back to text