Note: This week we’re publishing posts related to the 2018 Major Orchestra Librarians’ Association (MOLA) Conference, hosted by the Kansas City Symphony and held downtown Kansas City, Missouri from March 16-19, 2018. In this post, we catch up with Newzik’s Aurélia Azoulay and Netta Shahar to learn about the new features in the app, including annotations and viewing capabilities, and their ongoing collaboration with orchestras.
Newzik, available for iOS for $9, is a collaborative sheet music reader. Since it was launched four years ago, it has rapidly evolved. Keeping at the forefront with the technological changes in software and hardware, Newzik has cast a wide net; their original focus on small pop groups has expanded broadly to enthusiastically embrace large classical ensembles like orchestras and opera companies.
When we last met up with the Newzik team at the NAMM 2017 show more than a year ago, we learned about their work to develop the software to meet the varied needs of these performing groups. Now at the 2018 MOLA conference, I spoke with Aurélia Azoulay, Newzik’s head of marketing and international development and Netta Shahar, their orchestra specialist, to talk about how the app has progressed based on their real-world experience, including collaborations such as those with the l’Opéra de Rouen Normandie.
“This is our second MOLA conference,” said Aurélia, who traveled to Kansas City from Newzik’s Tel Aviv office. “Our biggest goal at this stage is to raise awareness of our product. There are amazing librarians here. They use software like Sibelius and Photoshop already. Regarding our technology, they know it’s going to happen. Some think it it will be soon, but some don’t see it happening until way in the future.”
“The librarians give us valuable feedback,” Netta added. “The Sepia mode is one example of a feature request we implemented, to help make the image more pleasant to look at. Another librarian makes use of our new support for the iPad’s split-screen feature. They have Newzik on one side of the screen, and Adobe on the other side, to consult a bowing master that they can then transfer into Newzik and have it appear in all of the parts at the same time. The multitasking opportunities are huge.”
Netta, who is based in Berlin, said that being present for productions that use Newzik is key to improving the product. Sometimes simple needs aren’t evident until they are seen in use: “Like the option to add a blank page from anywhere in the document. I was a librarian in an opera house, but I hadn’t thought about it until I saw Newzik being used in a production.”
At the 2017 NAMM Show, we spoke extensively about Newzik’s use of MusicXML, and a few months ago I discussed the topic with Newzik’s product manager, Matan Daskal. Yet at the MOLA conference, the focus is on exhibiting Newzik’s use of PDFs. I asked Aurélia about this. “We are committed to MusicXML,” she said, “but PDF is the short-term priority in terms of feature development in the orchestra world. For pop music recording sessions, they love MusicXML because it’s quick and the files are light. They don’t necessarily need to have the same level of engraving accuracy; they’re more concerned with the number of bars and the structure of the music.”
Aurélia said that Newzik is committed to both feature deployment and bug fixes on an ongoing basis, and that while the orchestras are rightfully expectant in their demands for new features, they are also realistic when it comes to the timetable. “When it’s a bug, of course it’s a priority and we fix it right away. With features, we evaluate. Some features take one week, others take two months. For us, as a tech developer, two months is a long time, but from the perspective of an orchestra, it’s no time!”