EducationWatch: MetAlliance Educator Summit

Teachers and audio professionals convene to discuss new educational ideas
Laurel Fishman

The Music Engineering and Technology Alliance hosted its debut MetAlliance Educator Summit on Oct. 1 at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music prior to the 2008 Audio Engineering Society Convention. The summit convened teachers worldwide and was designed to connect them with members of the professional audio manufacturing community including MetAlliance's GRAMMY-winning founding engineers and producers Chuck Ainlay, Ed Cherney, Frank Filipetti, George Massenburg, Phil Ramone, Elliot Scheiner, and Al Schmitt. Discussion topics included potential ways the industry can develop methodologies to assist educators. "Educators who strive to elevate audio consciousness in the academic community deserve recognition and support," said Jim Pace, MetAlliance's director of business affairs. "Today's students will be tomorrow's engineers, producers and technology designers." MetAlliance programs include research and development, standardization and cross-platform interoperability, education and mentoring.

The recent Digital Music Forum West in Hollywood, Calif., featured two days of industry panels, keynote addresses and exhibitions. Panel topics included global music marketing, alternative digital download models, and future trends for social networks and the concert industry. More than 60 speakers offered opinions about the current state and future of digital music. Ted Cohen, TAG Strategic managing partner, said, "It's not about file-sharing anymore; it's about discovery and recommendations." Dimitri Villard, interim CEO of Artistdirect, observed that discovery is happening exclusively online for the younger demographic with streaming video replacing streaming audio. Ted Mico, executive vice president of digital at Interscope Geffen A&M, said that labels could make more deals by using the MySpace model and that similar subscription service models "[are] our future." David Pakman of eMusic stated, "My general view is that the way to grow the industry is to power the entrepreneurs, because they come up with the ideas." The convention's living expression of this was Jac Holzman, founder of Elektra Records and current chairman of Warner Music Group's Cordless Recordings, speaking about his decades of trailblazing entrepreneurialism and the fascinating evolution of his industry career.

In the first national partnership created to support orchestras in their commitment to up-and-coming American orchestral composers and their music, the New York-based EarShot program has launched. EarShot identifies emerging composers, provides them with opportunities for professional-level working experience with U.S. orchestras, and raises awareness and access to these composers' music. EarShot projects include workshops, residency design, commissioning consortia, consulting, and mentor/composer involvement. EarShot is now working with the Baltimore Symphony, Denver Young Artists, Memphis Symphony, New York Youth Symphony and South Dakota Symphony among others to provide production and administrative support for composer development programs. EarShot initiatives are coordinated by the American Music Center, American Composers Forum, Meet The Composer, the League Of American Orchestras and the American Composers Orchestra.

In related news, the American Composers Orchestra is participating in a new music education initiative at New York City's Harlem School of the Arts. The World Of Music pilot program pairs leading educators with an innovative system of exploring musical creativity and classes that incorporates the use of interactive software such as World of Music, Making Music and Making More Music. Also available at retail, these inventive children's software products were created by Morton Subotnick, renowned composer and pioneer in the use of electronic media for music creation. In following Subotnick's software format, the Harlem School classes begin with a play-oriented structure and emphasize using a paint screen on a musical "canvas," with various colors representing different instruments. Assessment games and a teacher mode allow instructors or parents to monitor progress. Throughout the Harlem School course, ACO members work with the children and perform original compositions from those students undertaking the full three-year program. In January 2009 the program will extend to New York City's 92nd Street YMCA to serve children with autism. Subotnick's Web site,, features continually expanding educational material, including a dedicated World of Music section with workbook and curriculum components.

Coinciding with Down Syndrome Awareness Month in October, independent children's recording artist Leonardo released Makin' Waves, an album of empowering, thoughtful original compositions backed by a rock band and a chorus of teens who have Down syndrome. Leonardo is a longtime musical advocate for children with special needs inspired by his younger brother Mario, who has Down syndrome and autism yet leads a productive life. Each year, Leonardo performs at camps and fund-raisers for special-needs kids. One Night In Frogtown is a clever new picture book/CD package by Emmy-winning writer/composer Philip Pelletier designed to educate and encourage cultural diversity through exposing kids to multiple musical genres such as classical, blues, jazz and hip-hop. Little Monster Records released two other new book/CD sets paying tribute to enduring popular songs. The sing-along Soulville showcases R&B hits from the 1960s and 1970s performed with new arrangements and featuring kids contributing backing vocals. All Together Now features a collection of Beatles hits and is presented in a colorful book. Both products are specially designed for quality parent/child time with educational tidbits about the original artists and songs.

(Laurel Fishman is a writer and editor specializing in entertainment media. She reports regularly for and GRAMMY magazine, and she is an advocate for the benefits of music making, music listening, music education, music therapy and music-and-the-brain research.)

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