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YouTube, Streaming, and the Music Teacher

This is the amazing YouTube Symphony Orchestra 2011. A full-fledged symphony orchestra was collected using audition pieces streamed through YouTube by musicians from all over the world. These amazing individuals came to Sydney to perform under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas, one of the great conductors of the modern era.

Knowing a little something about things like this is important, I think, for the modern music educator like myself. So often in classical music we get bogged down by tradition. I’ve written before about things like incorporating audio and visual supports for teachers. This is a great extension that can be done on a smaller scale for dispersed, often isolated programs. If you have a suitable Internet connection, it’s possible in today’s day and age to connect audio-visually with any number of other people.

Now, the technology doesn’t really permit me to do cool things like conduct another group from afar. The delays that creep in as the servers reroute high-compression video files make conducting to what you hear nigh-impossible unless you have absolutely lightning quick Internet and the highest quality of video drivers. However, using them to exchange videos with another program is certainly viable.

A lot of programs nowadays do guest workshops where the students are either brought to a group of more experienced specialist musicians to work with, or the clinicians come to them. This has obvious real benefits because of course spending one-on-one instructional time with students while in a band class where you are expected to rehearse as a group is very challenging. However, the cost and logistics of organizing clinics can be prohibitive for some programs.

Imagine instead a Skype music lab: professionals hook up their Skype to a group of students on the other end of a big-screen computer. The sound transmission is fairly good, and all manner of demonstrations of posture or other visual aids to music performance can be accommodated. Again, this is not the ideal format for instruction: having someone in the room to have the most realistic feedback is preferable. But for a program that maybe doesn’t have those few hundred/thousand dollars to bring in clinicians, it could be a quick fix with some interesting networking applications.

Anyhow, the point is not to completely explore what technology like video capture and live streaming can accomplish. People are going to continuously improve these services so that more and more is possible with them. Things like the YouTube Symphony Orchestra would not have been possible even 10 years ago due to the limitations on our technology. It’s really important that we keep abreast of these changes and brainstorm how you might use them, because if we don’t start now, we will be so unbelievably far behind when the truly revolutionary things happen.

Possible resources/uses of Internet video:

– sample recordings of professionals: have students re-create a video by a professional musician of their instrument, using an easier piece of music; how does it sound the same? Different?

– submit playing tests from home or wherever is most comfortable for the student

– record music videos to show some of the technical aspects of modern music recording and performance

– guest performances over YouTube/Skype by partner schools

Many possibilities here! Let me know of anything that might be usable!

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