Virtual music schools could open the world to aspiring music students

I'll never forget my last piano lesson. Halfway through Fur Elise, I glanced over at my instructor, to find he was eating a bologna sandwich, with his eyes closed. I'd chosen him not because of his reputation, but because he was nearby. Even then, I thought there must be a better way, and now, thanks to the Internet, development is underway for a virtual music school that will allow students to study under masters anywhere in the world.

The EU has funded the Vemus Project, (Virutal European Music School) to develop the tools necessary for virtual music tutoring. The project began with instruments that produce a less complex, monophonic sound; the clarinet, flute, saxophone and recorder. The first goal was to design software that would help a student practice. The computer would listen to the practice, compare it with the written score, and provided feedback to the student about where he had gone wrong. This would go a long way toward overcoming ego-based learning problems.

The second step was to design a platform for distance learning, in which a teacher and student could work together even though miles -- even oceans-- apart via the Internet. Between such lessons, students would be assigned practice, the computer evaluations of which could be sent to the instructor to guide further assignments.

Finally, for live teaching, many students could practice/perform together, and the digital record of the performance of each can be compiled. This would allow the teacher to identify who blew the sour note or came in on the wrong beat.

The components have already been field tested extensively. Plans are to distribute this for free, and a trail version is available now as a free download. While work remains to be done to incorporate a full selection of instruments, this could be an answer for school systems that have been unable to fund more than a cursory music education. If it have been around when I was attempted to learn the piano, I would have dumped Bologna Man in a heartbeat.

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