Due to Covid-19 there have been many changes made at the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music as faculty and staff work hard to create the best scenario possible for our students. Many of these changes have to do with the technology available in the music industry for distance learning and how to best use it. Fortunately, the School of Music has a great resource for this new challenge in Dr. David Spencer, Associate Professor of Trumpet.
While Dr. Spencer is a highly talented musician, his skills and research focus in music distance learning are part of what makes him so invaluable to the School of Music. He began his work with music distance learning in 2011, focusing his research on the use of distance learning tools in applied music. In his research with the Internet2 Arts Advisory Board, Dr. Spencer put platforms through a three-stress test, looking for the quality, ease of use, and accessibility. These three tests are a vital part of how he has helped advise the School of Music on use of music distance learning tools.
An exciting project in the works is integration of an audio system called DANTE. Dr. Spencer described this system as a digital audio network that will be able to use the existing internet infrastructure within a building to connect multiple audio streams. This technology will enable students to have synchronous rehearsals without having to be in the same room. For example, an accompanist could be in one classroom and the solo instrumentalist or vocalist could be in another If they have the DANTE audio system and a video connection they can perform together in real time.
As we are currently using remote online learning, our students need to have access to reliable resources. At the fall convocation, Dr. Spencer presented ideas on ways that students can optimize their settings on Zoom and Cleanfeed, which are the main platforms being used for our classes. In this presentation he stressed the importance of having a wired or Ethernet connection for internet access in order to optimize connection speed for classes. Many studios are recommending that students purchase USB mics to use. These, in conjunction with Cleanfeed, will optimize the audio experience in musical settings. When asked for recommendations, Dr. Spencer suggested that if students could only afford one item, they should invest in a portable digital recorder that can double as a USB mic like the Zoom line of Handy recorders.
The School of Music recognizes that not every student is able to afford portable recorders or even has access to reliable internet and so has put in place distance learning spaces that are dedicated for student use for classes or applied lessons. In these spaces, students have access to a computer that is connected to the university’s high-speed internet. The spaces are equipped with web-cameras for the students to use and School has a set of microphones that the students can sign out for free.
Dr. Spencer is also working on a project with LOLA (Low Latency Audio Visual Streaming System). When completed, it will allow the university to connect with other participants in the LOLA system around the globe. We will be able to share and participate live in masterclasses that are happening worldwide.
Dr. Spencer encourages us to look positively on the opportunity distance learning presents, saying, “this crisis is connecting us globally and exposing our students to resources and experiences all around the world.”