Distance learning technology and the violin

March 23, 2007 at 04:05 AM · Tonight I taught a fascinating violin lesson. It was on Sarasate's Carmen Fantasy and the student was an excellent young violinist named Helen Kim.

What made this lesson different is that Helen was playing for me from her school at USC where she studies with Robert Lipsett and Margaret Batjer. I was in a studio in the Cleveland Institute of Music and the "audience" was made up of the heads of university music programs from the Pacific Rim. That included Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and others.

The lesson was given using distance learning equipment. Although literally thousands of miles away, we felt as if we were in the same toom for the lesson. The quality was so good that I could hear differences is her tone production.

This technology is really amazing. I'm curious to see how it will enhance our world.

If you would like to read more about it, you can visit my myspace page: http://www.myspace.com.violinistdavidrussell

I have written about it in my blog.

Amazing age we live in, isn't it?

Replies (23)

March 24, 2007 at 03:29 AM · Really, it was interesting....really! Really, really....and then some.

March 24, 2007 at 03:35 AM · really david, i for me would love to hear more about it, somehow the link to myspace does not seem to work,,,

for instance, how many cameras are on you, and on the other side...are they operated by camerapeople or are fixed angle,,,how big are the monitors on each side...

is the tech different from what people usualy use for teleconferencing that you know of?


March 24, 2007 at 03:37 AM · David, to save me a trip to myspace (which Michael tells me is addictive), could you please recount how the technology works? Video conferencing, I'm assuming, with BIG screens and really good microphones?

March 24, 2007 at 03:40 AM · While I was not there for this lesson, I am a student technician for CIM's distance learning. All of the technical aspects are run by trained students or the professionals who run the program. There can be several cameras that can be used and we can make presets on the remote that controls the connection, making it easy to switch between cameras. The microphone system consists of two kinds of mics (for those insterested, they are the shotgun mic and the 40/50 mic). Other things that are possible are the use of powerpoints, DVDs, and CDs. It's really quite incredible to watch the interaction between a teacher and a student using this equipment- it's no different than it would be in person. There are different connection speeds- the faster the connection, the better the audio/video. When it comes to connecting with other universities, such as USC, it's basically real-time audio and video.

Mr. Russel, it's great that you were able to teach using distance learning- I think more teachers should embrace the possibilites of technology.

March 24, 2007 at 05:02 AM · I know the guy who wrote the original Netmeeting, for IBM I think. After all this time he still acts like it's used for business (the original plan of course). Now, strangely enough, he works at one of the few places that makes really BIG screens. The possibilities are endless.

March 24, 2007 at 12:06 PM · Thanks for the technical explanation, Christina. I like to think of it as magic! The technology is so good that I could actually work on issues related to sound and hear subtle differences. The interaction between us was very natural and comfortable and the delay in sound was so insignificant that I could pizz. the introduction to the opening of Carmen fantasy and she entered on time!

As I see it, the only drawback to this technology is that you can't eat the food at the location you're "visiting". If truth be known, thats the beast part of traveling somewhere to give a class! Christina, get to work on this, ok? ;-)

March 24, 2007 at 04:34 PM · Bravo David.

Is this the same technology that Pinky Z. has used at MSM for masterclasses?

March 24, 2007 at 05:07 PM · try www.myspace.com/violinistdavidrussell

nice myspace!

March 24, 2007 at 05:20 PM · Cool! Glad it went well! I have to admit I would probably find it slightly unnerving to be taking a lesson from a big projection on a screen being beamed in from thousands of miles away, but that's just me. :)

There was a funny picture in a recent issue of Strad, of Pinchas Zukerman giving a long-distance coaching to a quartet: the quartet was there in the foreground, nice and normal, but with this huge, glowing, hologram-like projection of Zukerman's face hovering over them. Looked like something from Star Trek. :)

March 24, 2007 at 05:32 PM · Zukerman started by using a far more primitive form of the technology. Even now he still has students use a webcam and send him a video of a specific problem or aspect that he asks them for, then he replies in a day or two.

March 24, 2007 at 05:37 PM · lessons-by-mail, cool. :)

March 24, 2007 at 06:09 PM · I believe Pinky Z. uses broadband videoconference technology.


To be specific, Radiance Videoconferencing System (according to an article from 1994)


also see other related articles:


"MasterVision International, co-founded by Zukerman, is dedicated to creating technology applications that extend the reach of the arts. Videoconferencing allows instructors to reach new students that were previously inaccessible. Zukerman uses videoconferencing to teach students in New Jersey, Minnesota, Georgia and at the Manhattan School of Music. To produce high-quality images, MasterVision utilizes Compression Labs' CTX Plus compression algorithm. The algorithm produces broadcast-level resolution and a frame rate of 30 fps at 1/2-T1 bandwidth or more. Interactive video allows instructors to reach pupils that are financially and physically challenged. Zukerman uses a variety of conferencing resources to conduct classes from all over the US." Communications News | Date: 7/1/1996 | Author: Foley, Mary Ellen

March 24, 2007 at 11:42 PM · Now that I think about it, this idea sounds appealing. Really.

March 26, 2007 at 05:31 AM · We've tried it (distance lessons over the Internet) over here using nothing more than MacBooks with the built in iSight camera and integrated microphone.

It's amazing how well it actually works, given the limited resolution of the camera and the moderate quality of the mic!

March 26, 2007 at 04:56 PM · Mr. Russell,

That is so cool. It'll be so neat to see how this unfolds over time. What a fantastic resource!



March 26, 2007 at 06:34 PM · It really is amazing, Maia!

Do you know Helen Kim, by the way?

(and may I be a myspace "friend"? Love your page.

March 27, 2007 at 07:04 AM · Christina,

You mentioned using a "40/50" mic. Never heard of this. Can you elaborate? (or did you just mean an Audio Technica 4050 condenser?)

I have recently been giving voice lessons over the computer. It works, but I am definitely interested in improving the technology!

(BTW, anyone who would be interested in trading violin lessons for voice lessons, using this technology, I would be very interested. My violin playing sure does need help!)

March 26, 2007 at 07:55 PM · Ha, of course!

Believe it or not, I don't know Helen Kim. I must be getting old. :) Margaret is a lovely lady, and of course Lipsett is a great teacher. Anyway, Helen sounds like a lucky student to have all these opportunities to study.

March 27, 2007 at 03:17 AM · David, why not write your blog on Violinist.com, eh?

March 27, 2007 at 06:23 AM · Hmmm...

Believe it or not-didn't realize that was an option... Really showing my web-savvy, no? ;-)

March 27, 2007 at 10:25 PM · I've just been taught to call it "4050" by the actual technological gurus. It's a mic that can pick up sound in a multi-directional pattern. Usually, we use it on the setting that picks up sound in a figure 8 pattern- it's used for picking up audio from an instrument or singer. We use our shotgun of course for voice, since it only picks up sound from one direction. If that describes the 4050 condenser, then I guess that's what it is!

March 27, 2007 at 10:36 PM · Wow that's really cool. I knew Helen Kim. We both lived in Reno and I went to All-State with her for a year.

September 9, 2013 at 08:46 PM · David Russell,

Could you please suggest which video conferencing program to buy/invest in (for violin lessons) which boasts exceptional audio quality? Good video quality would also be good, but the audio is the most important.



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