Opportunities for Online Music Education with MacPhail

At CoSN, we believe that technology can enhance learning and the student experience in all subjects, including the arts. Our guest poster, Kyle Carpenter from MacPhail Center for Music, discusses the enormous impact technology can have on music education. Want to learn to play the tuba, but there's nobody around to teach you? No problem -- hook up a webcam and connect with one of MacPhail's expert instructors from your home!

Have you used technology to help with arts education?

The proof has never been clearer that music education makes a difference. I receive articles and research reports almost weekly about how music education and participation, regardless of socio-economic status, increases school readiness for Pre-K children and improves middle and high school student performance. But even as the benefits become clearer, the opportuities for music education are dropping. For example, there are 25% fewer music teachers in Minnesota schools today than 10 years ago.

At MacPhail, our mission is to provide students of all backgrounds and abilities with access to exceptional music learning. Historically, teaching music has been limited to face-to-face interaction, but with advances in technology, these limitations can be bridged. Today we have the power to connect and give access to students all around the state.

Our MacPhail Online program is using state-of-the-art video-conferencing technology to connect people through music. While a few collegiate organizations have previous experience, MacPhail is the first community based organization to use video conferencing as a community based organization. Thanks to advances in technology, we are able to use video and audio conferencing to connect with rural schools and communities across Minnesota. We work with local music teachers to identify what could specifically be of most help to them and their students.

[Photo: 21st century learning in action: MacPhail instructor and saxophonist Greg Keel leads a band class.]


We look at this venture as fulfilling a need. We have found a way to help keep music accessibility high even when the number of educators is low. More students and communities now have the opportunity to work with our musician-artists than could have ever been possible with in-person instruction. All lessons are being transmitted through audio and video connections, allowing for direct, real-time critiquing and teaching. In our experience, the relationships develop very effectively and the integrity of the instruction is as strong as in-person sessions -- but students without a music teacher can suddenly connect with one hundreds of miles away!

We believe this technology will have a major impact in the music education field and for MacPhail itself. Our partner schools love it so far -- one of the most rewarding aspects of the program! As Nicole Boelter, Instrumental Music Director at Yellow Medicine East High School in Granite Falls states, “I am proud of how far I can push my students […], but the resources of MacPhail with their professional musicians and specific expertise help my students achieve the best of their ability.” We're proud to be paving the way for the future of music accessibility. This helps us fulfill our mission in stronger and more efficient ways while creating more access to music – a key pillar in MacPhail’s core values.