Boot Camp San Antonio: Internet Conferencing, Collaboration, and Convergence

October 31, 2006

Those who arrived in San Antonio a day early were treated to an event of music and technology unlike any ever before assembled for a CMS conference. The CMS 2006 conference began with a pre-conference that immersed some 50 attendees in the latest applications of video conferencing and Internet collaboration for music. This event was part of the ongoing CMS effort to provide boot camp training in music technology for its membership. The event was co-sponsored by CMS, ATMI, and the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) Institute of Music Research and held on the UTSA-Downtown campus.

The goal of the boot-camp event was to bring together novices and experts to create an awareness of the emerging technologies necessary to create tele-immersion experiences over the Internet for studio, classroom, and performance venues. The term tele-immersion dates back to the 1990s and Jaron Laniers pioneering work with virtual reality. It refers to creating a virtual, shared reality, electronically across varied geographic space through the use of computers, networking, and video and audio media compression. As the CMS Technology Chair and the overall coordinator for the pre-conference, Id like to review the day, especially for those members who were not able to attend.

The rehearsals. The morning was devoted to setting up the incredible array of technology transported to Texas; we quickly turned two rooms on the UTSA-Downtown campus into a video technology command center for which Captain Kirk (Star Trek) would be envious. Frank Clark (Georgia Tech) built an impressive layout of mixers, audio gear, and high-end video conferencing gear for DVTS or internet digital video; the many other presenters set up their laptops and video conferencing gear around the conference rooms; and, in the midst of all this flurry of activity, James Oliverio, composer in residence for the boot camp, along with musicians and engineers, created the most sophisticated of hardware configurations to connect multiple points of the globe over Internet2. This incredible bustle of engineering and music rehearsing proved to be as exciting and educational as the formal presentations that followed.

Opening ceremony and instruction. The conference began with opening introductions and remarks. Two instructional sessions conducted by Fred Rees (IUPUI) and Frank Clark (Georgia Tech) then began the conference and set the stage for the many demonstrations to come. Fred Rees intermixed information on key video conferencing concepts with real-time conferencing using consumer technology. The first conference was with William Budai, a piano pedagogy specialist, from his office at IUPUI in Indianapolis; then Fred had us join Tim Brimmer (Butler University) and Sam Leong (Hong Kong Institute of Education), both in Hong Kong where Tim is working this semester. Joining in on the Hong Kong multipoint conference were student teachers in Indiana and Hong Kong (at 4 am their time no less!). Frank Clark followed Fred with a more advanced session with details on Internet2 and higher resolution, DVTS, video technology. In Franks class we were able to hold an Internet2 conference with Brian Shepard from his office at USC in Los Angeles, and with guests from the New World Symphony, Tom Snook, chief technology officer, and Andrew Hollis, Internet2 manager.

Showcase. The instructional sessions helped with understanding the technology. What then followed was a showcase session with seven simultaneous presentations provided by CMS/ATMI members using the Internet for collaborative research and teaching. The mix of 50 attendees wandering, observing, questioning, sharing ideas, along with the cacophony of audio emanating from four corners of each room, much to everyones surprise, was an informative and stimulating experience.

The seven showcases included: additional presentations by Frank Clark and Fred Rees (with Fred online with Gilles Comeau, University of Ottawa); Richard Hornsby (University of New Brunswick) sharing his work linking to K-12 schools in rural areas with Internet video conferencing and using the MusicGrid over CANet4 and Internet2; Scott Deal (University of Alaska Fairbanks) discussing his work using Internet2 for distributed performances with mixed media; Matt Nickerson (Southern Utah University) sharing the results from two research studies comparing online instruction with and without video support using streaming media and on-demand video; the Auburn University team of Douglas Rosener, Sid Hearn, and Kimberly Walls demonstrating the use of streaming video and Internet video conferencing for percussion and guitar methods; and, Peter Webster (Northwestern University), focusing on Northwesterns experiences using a sophisticated technology solution for conducting master classes between their campus and the New World Symphony and the Manhattan School of Music.

Panel. It is one thing to become immersed in the technology; it is another to step back and consider the application and implications for college music instruction. Peter Webster moderated a panel session along with Sam Reese (University of Illinois), Sara Hagen (Valley City College), and Stewart Smith (Winnipeg Schools). The panelist offered their insights on instructional strategy along with examples from their work. As Barbara Wallace (Dallas Baptist University) commented, I came to the workshop with a pre-conceived idea that music instruction is not as suitable for distance education as other disciplines, but the applications I saw were quite amazing and gave me many ideas to take back to my school.

Parrilladas dinner and keynote address. What good is a day struggling with the understanding of innovative technology without local ethnic food and socializing to satiate the mind and palate. The conference adjourned to the Pico de Gallo restaurant for a unique, Mexican family-style dinner, ambient mariachi music, and a keynote presentation by our featured composer, James Oliverio, director of the Digital Worlds Institute at the University of Florida, who shared insights into his creative work and the work of the Digital Worlds Institute to set the stage for the online performance to come. Oliverio and Digital Worlds use Internet2 for such projects as his In Common: TIME or ICT to create new music and performance environments with participants synchronously choreographed online from around the globe. Check out for more details.

Evening concert. With all that had transpired so far this day, one would find it hard to imagine that we were soon to exceed these experiences. Moving back to the UTSA-Downtown campus, we were treated to two events: a new composition by James Oliverio entitled DRUMMA, a piece that requires Internet2 and experimental, highly sophisticated network technology, followed by an online, multipoint recording session with Henry Panion (University of Alabama-Birmingham) using the most basic of off-the-shelf, consumer technology.

DRUMMA is a composition for percussion and tympani soloist and was performed simultaneously by some 18 musicians and engineers located at four universities around the globe: University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of South Carolina, University of Florida, and onsite, musicians from UTSA. The performance was made possible by a new suite of software tools invented by Digital Worlds called the NetroNome. This software is at the heart of keeping musicians at four different Internet2 sites in synchrony so that those of us at the primary site in San Antonio would experience the complete performance. Oliverio served as conductor and engineer at the UTSA primary site for the performance and, in the tradition of Town Hall and past avant-garde performances, the online ensemble performed DRUMMA twice that evening.

Henry Panions production then created an online multicast that included the conference attendees and Henry Panion (San Antonio), musicians and recording engineers at the AudioState55 recording studio (Birmingham AL), students at the Word of Life Academy (Hawaii), and a top recording engineer (Nashville). All of the online members collectively participated in a live recording session with Panion as the producer. In contrast to the über-technology of the DRUMMA performance, Panions session demonstrated possibilities with inexpensive, consumer technology in creating diverse online experiences for students using an iSight camera, a Mac laptop, and iChat multipoint software.

Two exceptional productions and a rewarding day is an assessment that can be confirmed in comments from two participants. Mario Pelusi (Illinois Wesleyan University) noted that he found the pre-conferenceto be highly informative, thought-provoking, and enjoyable. The organizers and presenters did extraordinary jobs in every respect, and I left feeling confident that I was now aware of the latest advances in this area of our profession. And, as Mark Harbold (Elmhurst College) expressed, I spent the day picking up my jaw from the floor. It was one exciting demonstration of cutting-edge technology after another, but it also showed how anyone could get started without much cost, effort, or high-end expertise. It was truly a rewarding, inspiring (and awe-inspiring) day.

Whats next? Does reading about the CMS pre-conference boot camp encourage you to join future technology activities? If so, here are two events to put on your calendar. There will be a technology boot camp provided by CMS and ATMI at the Great Lakes Regional Conference in March 2007 at Bowling Green University. The theme will be common technology tips for common instructional needs in music classroom preparation, skills that include audio, video, CD/DVD burning, scanning, and podcasting. Plans are also underway for another boot camp pre-conference in Salt Lake City for CMS/ATMI 2007; a tentative theme is showcasing the use of multimedia in music instruction with course management systems like WebCT and Blackboard. Put a note on your calendar now to come to CMS 2007 in Salt Lake City a day early: Wednesday, November 14th, 2007.

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