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Music video review: 'Pandemic Blues Improv'

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Sungmin Shin in "Pandemic Blues Improv." - YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT
  • YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT
  • Sungmin Shin in "Pandemic Blues Improv."
In lieu of in-person performances, live and pre-recorded video performance has been an essential tool for musicians to get their sounds to the people in the COVID-19 era.

One such musician, Rochester guitarist Sungmin Shin — a member of the contemporary classical chamber ensemble fivebyfive and music professor at both Rochester Institute of Technology and University at Buffalo — has been doing his homework on the virtual performance medium during the pandemic, and “Pandemic Blues Improv” is the result. The video — which features Shin playing nine different guitar parts simultaneously — doubles as a demonstration for music teachers looking to enhance the quality of their instruction and simply as an entertaining blues tune, an etude of sorts.


Although the video works as a stand-alone performance, Shin created it to develop the technical skills he needs for effectively teaching music remotely. “Whether we're teaching in-person, online, or some combination, music instructors need to be prepared to engage our students and keep the music happening,” Shin said in an email to CITY.

For those who are most familiar with Shin as fivebyfive’s guitarist, “Pandemic Blues Improv” gives music lovers a chance to hear and see him in a fresh context. Shin is a truly adept player, combining the kind of composure and technical precision prominent in classical music performances with the melodic soul and note-bending fire of blues and rock. Shin’s intonation on the guitar(s), in particular, cuts through and sparkles like a diamond, particularly when he trades solos with himself on dueling electric guitars.

Daniel J. Kushner is CITY’s music editor. He can be reached at dkushner@rochester-citynews.com.