Lee University’s 12th annual International Piano Festival and Competition has always featured master classes with top instructors, but on Friday, the university was able to become a pioneer in …
Lee University’s 12th annual International Piano Festival and Competition has always featured master classes with top instructors, but on Friday, the university was able to become a pioneer in distance learning as a master class was held with an instructor who was over 700 miles away.
Four young pianists, Mary Elizabeth Nerren, Yu-Hsuan Yeh, Lindsay Betts and Sophia Guan, participated in a live, interactive piano master class with Michael Shinn, director of Keyboard Curriculum at The Juilliard School in New York. They performed on a Yamaha DCFX Disklavier PRO concert grand piano in Cleveland, and a similarly equipped high-tech "reproducing" instrument at Yamaha Artist Services in New York recreated, in real time, their exact performances for Shinn.
“With the remote technology that Yamaha has produced over the years, it allows two pianos to connect, anywhere in the world, simultaneously for purposes of master classes,” Yamaha representative French Forbes, III, explained.
“This is the 30th year that Yamaha has produced the model (that was used) here, the Disklavier. As far as the master classes, it’s probably been close to 10 years that we’ve been producing live master classes. The biggest advancement has probably been just with the technology, to be able to record more of the nuances of the playing exactly the way the artist plays it,”
The performance was so exacting that the piano’s keys and pedals even moved up and down to capture even the most subtle of nuances.
“I first got to know Yamaha just through the quality of the instruments themselves without knowing about all of this technology. What gave me the idea for this was the fact that we were having this international piano festival going on,” International Piano Festival and Competition artistic director Cahill Smith said.
This marked the first time that Lee University was able to utilize this technology for a master class, and with participants coming from all over the world for the festival and competition, Cahill knew it was the right time to do it.
“When we found out we could have this technology here, that enabled use to pretty much use anyone without having to fly them in. It’s amazing that we could get someone as busy as Michael to be able to do this for us,” the artistic director added.
Shinn was able to provide critiques and instruction via video chat from the Yamaha Artist Services studio in NYC, with the technology making it seem as if he was right there sitting on the same piano bench as the students.
According to Smith, the educational uses with this type of technology are “limitless.”
The opportunity to participate in this remote/live master class was one that the performers greatly enjoyed.
“I’ve never seen this kind of tech before, it’s really cool,” declared Nerren, a 16-year-old who is from Johnson City.
“It’s just really neat to see him playing from 700 miles away — it’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.”
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