Maritime Conservatory expands Web teaching tool

The Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts in Halifax in conjunction with a local software vendor and Atlantic telco provider Aliant has developed an online software tool to connect students, teachers and electronic

keyboards via the Internet.

Piano Suite Online, developed by Halifax, N.S.-based Adventus Interactive, uses Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology to compress and stream audio content, allowing students and teachers to talk with each other online. Adventus has also developed a scheduling tool that updates scheduling changes and is used as a billing management tool. Conservatory director Ifan Williams first approached Adventus about four years ago after seeing an article on the company in the local paper.

“It covered so many music styles that would give beginning students a comprehensive overview of music and impress upon a student that music is a language and the student would learn the music as such,” said Williams, who has won the National IT Hero Award from the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) for his efforts over the past several years. The National IT Hero is awarded annually by ITAC at its annual meeting scheduled on Tuesday.

The software includes over 700 pieces of music that cover the Royal Conservatory of Music’s novice to grade 5 levels, music history and theory and 10 different genres of music.

Since the official launch of the online version in February, Adventus president Jim Mullen expects a 20 to 30 per cent enrollment increase over the next three to four years. Adventus currently has students in Massachusetts, Maryland and other parts of the Atlantic provinces including a school in P.E.I. and the regional branch of the Canadian Conservatory using its online service.

Time and money are the two biggest barriers to students learning to play. A solution costs roughly $250 and includes software, electronic keyboard and headset.

“We’re taking out all of those hidden costs,” said Mullen. “From the comfort and safety of their own home, they can have a quality lesson that resembles the traditional lesson but has a uniquely engaging interactive software that students use to practice during the week.”

When a student begins a lesson, a dictation workbook automatically pops up on their screen to tell them what they will be doing in that day’s lesson, explained Mullen. The teacher will then tell the student to play bars one to eight of a selected work. As the student plays the piece, the notes will show up in green or red to show if the student has played the notes correctly or incorrectly. The teacher can play the piece on their keyboard and the student can hear in real time how the piece is supposed to sound.

Other benefits include increasing the enrolment without increasing the size of the physical facility in Halifax, said Williams. The Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts has 1,400 students in different programs including 300 infants in the Kinder International Music Program, 300 to 350 in the dance program and the rest in music programs of various instruments.

“We’re already bursting at the seams with students in the building,” said Williams. “This way a teacher can teach from his or her home.”

Adventus eventually expects to make a similar application for guitar.

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