Music Tech Stuff

The Broadway Bach Ensemble Web Site

I’ve been working on this one for a couple of weeks, and it’s finally ready.

Yet another WordPress site, I’ve kind of wheeled out everything I know how to do to make this one as full-featured as possible. I guess what’s most interesting (I mean, I think what’s most interesting) is that it’s not a blog. I’m using the features of WP that can make it be a full-fledged content management system.

Originally I toyed with doing it in Joomla — I even had a working prototype. But it was just too too convoluted somehow, and the Joomla admin interface started to get on my nerves after a while. I studied the things that I wanted to do that seemed really hard in Joomla and found that in WordPress they were only moderately difficult.

The main components that make a difference are:

The Arras Theme

Arras is a magazine-style theme with two menus and a whole bunch of customizable feature sections. I wanted to have separate places to plug in news, stuff for members, posts with specific characteristics (like audio files), and general posts. This has them, plus a nifty slideshow across the top as well.

Magic Fields

I wrote about Magic Fields earlier, and this is yet another way to use it. I have custom post types for seasons, performances, musical works and soloists — each with its own data types that have to be accounted for and displayed. In order to really make it work of course you’ve got to be able to code your templates.


A nice widgetable MP3 player that accommodates playlists. It didn’t play nicely at first with Magic Fields, but working with the developer I was able to find a tweak to make it sing, so to speak.

Contextual Content

The first plug-in I ever wrote. Look ma!. It works with Magic Fields to show custom fields in context on relevant pages.

Shutter Reloaded

My favorite plug-in for photo galleries.

WP Events Calendar

A widgeable calendar.

Simple Google Map Widget

Incredibly, with all the Google Maps plug-ins out there, most of them are out-of-date. this was only rated compliant up to two or three versions ago, but it works well enough to let me stick a map in the sidebar. I’d used the Bing Map Widget earlier, but its slow load time made the page hang sometimes.

And a lot of elbow grease

Photos to size and crop, program notes to edit, bios to clean up and format, for more than a decade of stuff.

There were also a couple of utilities that saved me from pulling my remaining hair out. I’d originally configured all the magic fields types as Pages; then determined that Pages were all wrong because I needed categories. The Convert Post Types plug-in let me flip them all around to Posts in one pass. Then the Assign Categories plug-in let me flag multiple posts at once without having to open each of 200 or so individually.

Enough of that, time for a test-drive. The URL is

On the home page you’ll see many “blocks” that Arras lets you populate individually. Depending on how a posted item is categorized it can appear in the top-left “What’s New,” as part of the changing display in the top center column, in the “Listen In” section, as well as “For Members.” The “Coming Soon” section in the right column can be set to show items. Categories can be assigned and un-assigned at will from the administrator screens, immediately updating the site.

When you click the This Season link (or any link under Past Seasons) you get a listing of that season’s concerts. The right-hand column automatically shows the guest artist roster for that season, with link to the performers’ bios.

Click on an individual concert, and you get the program and artist list, with each linked to either a program notes page or the artist bio, along with their photos in the right-hand column. If you click on a work title which has an audio file attached, a widget will appear at the top of the right hand column with brief program notes and a player. It supports “playlists,” so for example I’ve uploaded all four movements of the Linz symphony, which can be listened to in order. The “Listen In” links on the home page are all works that have audio attached.

The site also has an events calendar, which appears on the sidebar everywhere, forms for prospective members and for the mailing list, the Facebook and PayPal widget throughout, and whatever Photo Galleries I’ve been able to find.

From a content point of view, the site content centers around five kinds:

  • musical works
  • performers
  • concert dates
  • seasons
  • informational pages

Magic Fields offers a field “related type,” which lets you select from a list of other posts that you can bring in. So seasons are built out of a set of Concert Dates. A Concert Date is built from Musical Works and Performers. So one starts with program notes (or a placeholder) and performers bios (or a placeholder). Once the set of Concert Dates is set up, a Season can be built out of them and added to the menu.

Tom McGee has been building web sites since 1995, and blogging here since 2006. Currently a senior developer at Seton Hall University, he's also a freelance web programmer and musician. Contact him if you have the need for a blog, web site, redesign or custom programming!

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