My Creative Practice in the Context of Contemporary Technology Overcoming Barriers in Music Education
The incorporation of technology in the music education industry has historically beenmet with hesitation due to the various challenges it presents and perceivedramifications. Mercer (2009) advises, “A cautious, but open mind and a careful planwill result in the gradual integration of educationally sound technology into yourlearning environment”. This essay carefully examines selected technologies, theirdesign, function, advantages, and limitations. In addition to this, the essay discussesthe potential of each technology to tackle a current barrier preventing equal access tomusic education. The chosen technologies include group piano instruction (financialhardship), synchronous online piano teaching (distance), sensorimotor piano system(disability), Virtual Reality Exposure Training (psychological disorder), and Band-in-a-Box (higher education opportunities). This paper will ultimately prove existingbarriers to music education can be overcome with the exploitation of contemporarytechnologies.
The Bronx House Music School first introduced group piano instruction in 1990 tocombat its lack of registration and financial distress, which resulted from the high costof private music lessons (Shender, 1998). This method of piano pedagogy is still usedtoday and has been revolutionised by the implementation of modern technology.Courtney Crappell discussed the installation and implementation of technologies in agroup piano classroom at the University of Texas in an Antonio. The technologiesemployed were instruments and a conferencing system, audio hardware, videohardware, and computers. Crappell identified some of the advantages of thesetechnologies including their aid in the evaluation and feedback process, opportunitiesfor self-evaluation through recordings, creation of an ensemble experience throughauto-accompaniment, capacity for simultaneous individual and group work, andsuitability to various ages and capabilities. Conversely, these technologies imposechallenges such as equipment maintenance, updates and upgrades, electricity supply,adequate space, time, and funding (Crappell, 2013). Shender (2013) argues, “Sincesociety is technologically advanced, and since the world of music is alreadysophisticated electronically, it is important for music education to be technologicallyadvanced also” (p. 4). In my first year of study at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music, Griffith University (QCGU), I was enrolled in Keyboard Foundation Skills 1 (1015QCM) and Keyboard Foundation Skills 2 (1016QCM), which were taught in a classroom piano environment. I found the use of technology beneficial to my learning and believe it to be efficient when instructing large class sizes.
In a report on rural and remote school education, Stokes (1999) stated, “Whenstudents had to travel any distances on buses, it restricted the provision of and theirparticipation in after-school activities, such as sport and music” (p. 29). This provesdistance is yet another barrier preventing students from accessing quality musiceducation. Rees (2002) claims, “Computer-based multimedia resources, coursemanagement systems, video-conferencing, and web-based instruction are providingopportunities and challenges for the educator who seeks additional or alternativemeans to facilitate music learning” (p. 257). This view is supported by a case study,which explored the use of synchronous online piano teaching in Southern USA in2017 (Pike). The technologies utilised were Disklavier grand pianos, computers withon-board cameras, microphones, and Facetime, an Internet MIDI software program, ahigh-speed Internet connection, and Dropbox. The pianos were equipped with MIDIsensors, which captured pedal depression, keystroke, and velocity on one piano andoutputted these details through the remote piano. The design of this technologyallowed for sound to emanate from the pianos at each location rather than relying onthe web-conferencing system to convey these aspects of piano performance. Onedrawback of this system is the incapability of students and teachers to talk and playsimultaneously due to the microphone cancellation feature in the Internet MIDI,which prevents the piano from echoing in Facetime. Pike asserts, “While not allinstruments can be taught online with outstanding sound quality, at present thetechnology exists to teach piano synchronously online and it has been deemed afeasible means of reaching underserved populations” (2017). Coming from a ruralbackground, I understand first-hand the barrier of distance in accessing musiceducation and believe distance learning programs may be a solution to this problem.
The Australian Music Therapy Association defines music therapy as, “A research-based practice and profession in which music is used to actively support people asthey strive to improve their health, functioning and wellbeing” (2012). Manytechnologies have been designed, which make musical performance achievable for people with disabilities. Scientific studies have found correlations between the use of these technologies and improvement in health, functioning and wellbeing in disabledpersons, giving them a place in modern music therapy. One of these technologies is asensorimotor piano system, which was initially developed for people with cerebralpalsy by Blumenstein, Turova, Alves-Pinto, and Lampe (2016). The system iscomprised of an E-piano with a MIDI output, additional acoustic or E-piano, LEDbar, controller, a pair of gloves with integrated pressure sensors, a pair of gloves withvibration motors and LEDs, and two OLED displays. Blumenstein et al. (2016)describes how the system functions:
The pressure sensed on the teacher’s glove is transmitted to the corresponding finger on the pupil’s glove via the vibration motors and LEDs, such that the pupil knows which finger should strike which key. Additionally, two OLED displays showing the notation of the note played by the teacher can be attached to the left and right pupil’s gloves.
The results showed a reduction in errors recorded by cerebral palsy pupils when the sensorimotor piano system was used, compared to when it was not used. They consider the system to also be effective in supporting the learning of people with sensory, cognitive, and space perception impairments. This invention is just one example of how contemporary technology is successful in eliminating the barrier between disability and music education.
In conjunction with physical disabilities, mental disorders such as Music Performance Anxiety (MPA) are obstacles negatively impacting on musical engagement. “MPA isdefined as the experience of persisting, distressful apprehension about and/or actualimpairment of, performance skills in a public context, to a degree unwarranted giventhe individual’s musical aptitude, training, and level of preparation”. (Salmon, 1990).Bissonnette, Dubé, Provencher, and Moreno Sala (2016) investigated the evolution of MPA and quality of performance quality during Virtual Reality Exposure Training(VRET). Over three weeks, nine music students participated in six one-hour sessionsof VRET to determine its effectiveness in reducing MPA. The four virtualenvironments tested were a public audience of twelve people, a public audience offorty people with an additional three judges, three judges without an audience, and an empty room. Bissonnette et al. (2016) reveal, “The findings indicate a significant decrease in MPA between sessions. They also indicate a significant increase inperformance quality within sessions and a positive correlation between absorptionability and level of anxiety at the beginning of the VRET”. Kenny (2011) discussesother treatment options available for MPA including psychoanalytic/psychodynamictherapies, behavioural, cognitive, and cognitive behavioural therapy, new wavecognitive behavioural therapies, multimodal therapies, emotion-based therapies,performance-based approaches, pharmacotherapy for anxiety disorders, and treatmentof anxiety disorder in children and adolescents. It is evident MPA is a seriouspsychological disorder, which has various treatments available due to themanipulation of an array of contemporary technologies. I have confidence in thesetechnologies to assist me in overcoming my own MPA.
A wholesome music education extends far beyond the practice room, the teachingstudio, and the stage. Being a well-rounded musician in the 21st Century demandsmuch more than this. Gearing and Forbes (2013) define a functional musician as,“One who is technically sound, versatile, adaptive, collaborative, empathetic, andcreative”. My enrolment at QCGU requires me to undertake performance study,keyboard foundation skills, music theory, aural studies, music literature, professionalpractice, conducting, and secondary teaching area courses. Other Conservatorium-listed electives include composition, Conservatorium ensemble studies, jazz,keyboard accompaniment, music technology, project studies, work integratedlearning, and world music performance (Griffith University, 2018). While I wasfortunate enough to be accepted into such a prestigious tertiary institution, noteveryone has this opportunity to develop these critical musicianship skills. Therefore,it is necessary to explore more accessible resources and technologies, such as Band-in-a-Box. Nardo interviews Chloe (2010) who describes the uses of the softwareincluding composition, arranging, ear training, improvisation, and accompaniment.She debates, “If we must talk about a limitation in my music experience with Band-in-a-Box, the beats are accurate - too accurate! There is no rubato whatsoever in themelodic lines, which sounds unnatural, unemotional. Also, because of the electronicsound, we miss the beauty and subtlety of real instruments” (Nardo & Chloe, 2010).Other resources for developing musicianship skills include Auralia, Music for Ear Training, Music for Sight Singing, Sight Reading Factory, The Sight-Reading Tutor, Tenuto, and i Real Pro.
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- Griffith University – Queensland Conservatorium of Music
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- Creative Practice Contemporary Technology Technology in Context Music Education Barriers Financial Hardship Group Piano Classroom Piano Distance Geographical Isolation Synchronous Online Teaching Disability Sensorimotor System Psychological Disorder Virtual Reality Exposure Training VRET Higher Education Tertiary Band-in-a-Box Disadvantage Equal Opportunity Equity Access