Friday, November 15, 2013

Rural Nebraska music students use special technology to get instruction from N.Y. music school

Band students in 11 rural schools in Nebraska are learning to perfect their playing with instruction from teachers more than 1,000 miles away at the Manhattan School of Music in New York, Matt McFarland reports for The Washington Post. The distance-learning program, created in 1996, has become most popular in Nebraska, going from two classes during the 2009-10 school year "to include 1,800 individual sessions this school year," said Christianne Orto, the dean of distance learning and recording art. (Post photo: Sophomore Kelsey Green receives a clarinet lesson from a New York instructor)

Students and teachers "connect on video conferencing machines made by Polycom," McFarland writes. "They are built with an omnidirectional microphone, which cuts out background noise. The high sound quality is essential for instructors and students to be aware of dynamics and pitch. Popular video conferencing software, such as Google Hangouts and Skype, can’t offer the same sound quality. Instructors can also zoom in with an HD camera attached to the cart. That gives them an up-close look at a student’s technique."

"The classes are the outgrowth of 2006 state legislation which gave schools better equipment for distance learning," McFarland writes. "The machines from Polycom — which can be wheeled from room to room — generally cost about $15,000. Schools also receive $1,000 per class to cover the cost of instruction with the Manhattan School of Music. The money is drawn from the state lottery, and the legislation financing it extends through the 2014-15 school year." (Read more)

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