Transatlantic collaboration in digital music teaching

Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) has officially started cooperating with Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas, in various areas of music-related teaching. Their joint project ‘Virtuelle Musiklehre in Kunst und Wissenschaft’ (‘Virtual Music Teaching in Art and Academia’) has attracted financial support to the tune of EUR 73,000 from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). Its purpose is to develop joint digital courses over the next twelve months, thereby promoting both skills in various music related subjects and intercultural exchange between faculty and students.

“Our objective is to master the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic and at the same time take advantage of the opportunities virtuality offers,” said Professor Stefanie Acquavella-Rauch of JGU, head of the project. “Our challenges include the severe restrictions on travel, staying abroad, and on-campus classes and events. On the other hand, the pandemic has drawn a lot of attention to digital teaching, and this is a chance for all of us.”

The aim is to integrate joint courses into the curricula over the long term. These will cover aspects as diverse as musicianship, musical analysis, compositional theory, and the basics of musicology as well as supplementing practical music lessons for individuals and groups.

“This joint virtual project gives us the opportunity to provide conventional courses but also create new formats,” added Acquavella-Rauch. There will be ‘synchronous’ online courses, lectures, and concerts that students in Mainz and San Marcos can access simultaneously as well as ‘asynchronous’ features, such as e-learning courses, which students can take individually and at times that suit them.

“And we will take advantage of the fact that at our university and Texas State University have different areas of specific expertise,” Acquavella-Rauch pointed out. “Here at Mainz University, for example, we have developed particular skills in the use of information technologies for music editions. At Texas State, on the other hand, they are ahead of us in the use of software for teaching musicianship and sight-reading.”

The collaboration will be conducted primarily via online platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Moodle. Acquavella-Rauch and the two other project leaders, Professor Birger Petersen of JGU and Professor Nico Schüler of Texas State University, are also planning visits at the respective partner institutions in summer 2021.

The progress of the project as well as the courses will be documented and made available on a website. “Our intention is to enable other universities and institutions of higher education to make use of our experience and results,” emphasised Acquavella-Rauch. She hopes that the results of the project will continue to prove useful even when the pandemic eventually subsides, saying, “Online courses with foreign partners can help students to gain valuable intercultural experience at home.”

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