If You Only Attend One Conference This Coming Year

Barbara FreedmanMusic Technology Basics, Presentations, teaching2 Comments

Why attend TI:ME 2012

I have been teaching music with technology for the past ten years. I have been to many conferences and attend several each year. The TI:ME Conference is one of my favorites not just because I get to spend time with people who share my passion but because I learn so much from them every time I go. This article was supposed to be my recap of TI:ME 2011 and it still is but it’s really is a testament to why I attend the TI:ME conference every year.

TI:ME had it’s 2011 National Conference in Cincinatti, OH in conjunction with the OMEA & Central Regional MENC Conference. This was a pretty big convention and from what I could tell, well attended. It has a nice big exhibit hall and it seemed busy with business. The most exciting for me was the massive interest in music technology by Ohio music educators. TI:ME sessions overall appeared well attended. I gave two sessions that I considered extremely well attended. I saw some sessions with people sitting on the floor and out the doorway! There were also sparsely attended sessions as there are in any conference.

Even though I have been teaching music with technology for ten years, I always learn a lot at these sessions. I was especially impressed with Will Kuhn and Brian Laasko who took a very different look at music technology in education. They are well versed in several types of technology and bring a very fresh and contemporary approach to teaching with technology.

Will said to me, “Yeah, I heard this thing about Teach music. The technology will follow.. But I approach it the opposite. I teach the technology and then the music follows”. (Hey, Will, in case you didn’t know. That’s MY line.) Will has his Master’s Degree in Music Technology. He’s a real pro-user of technology especial tech used in popular music including drum machines, DJ devices and all kinds of software & hardware. I was at one of his three sessions. He is extremely knowledgeable, thoughtful in his how he prepared and presented his content and a dynamic presenter. By all accounts, his other session was equally superb. His student ensemble performed for a third session. What a fantastic opportunity to hear students perform contemporary styles on contemporary devices and having a great time! It was a real pleasure to spend time with Will hanging out or dinner with a group. We “met” on Twitter, as so many others I now know at these conferences. Will hit the nail on the head when he described his approach about teaching the technology. He knows how the technology serves contemporary music styles and he knows exactly what to teach to accomplish those styles.

Brian Laasko gave two sessions and I was able to be at one of them. Brian’s presentation was really remarkable. Brian discussed and explored the area of Remixing, a contemporary music style. He obviously knows a great deal about contemporary music and pop-music history. It was incredibly thoughtfully derived. There was so much content and detail that required an enormous amount of time to research, gather the materials, save as files that can be used from the Internet and compile for presentation (Brian, looks like you have a great thesis there). I really wish he had two hours to present then demo examples of how to accomplish what he presented on software and hardware that he recommended. It was so interesting and he was such an engaging presenter, I think everyone would have been thrilled to sit and watch him for two hours straight. Not something I can say about everyone! Again, the reports were glowing about Brian’s other session.

There were other outstanding and provocative presentations. Keep your eyes on:

VJ Manzo, is simple a brilliant musician and educator. He’s a tech geek of all tech geeks and that is said in the most complimentary of ways. I wish I could get my head around the technology and software engineering that he can. VJ a monster-mind of engineering, a brilliant and well spoken musician coupled with the heart & soul of a teenager make him a powerhouse teacher for all ages. Do not miss any opportunity to learn from him.

Andy Zweibel, the youngest presenter, is an encyclopedia of social networking & Web 2.0 knowledge. At the ripe old age of 22 (!) he PACKED his session. I heard some 70 plus people were standing outside the door looking into his room. On a personal note I would like to tell the organizers of TI:ME to please make sure Andy & I are not scheduled opposite one another again! Sure I would love to see him present (same thing happened at FMEA and I didn’t get to see his presentation!) but as they say in Show Biz, “You can’t compete against puppies & kids” (kidding Andy!)

There were so many great sessions including the pure genius Keynote address by Morton Subotnick. I am highlighting the above young men because I took away something very valuable. It was one of those “ah ha!” moments that will impact my teaching, presentations and writings. I have a classical music background. I was trained in a conservatory since high school. I learned music as a performer in a traditional conservatory-apprentice setting and I learned music theory with paper & pencil. There’s nothing wrong with that and it has served me well. I teach music through composition using computer software. I worked on developing what I do for ten years. It clearly stems from my background and experiences, but that’s just one approach. Will, Brian, Andy & VJ are doing and teaching what they love and what they are experienced and strong in. These guys found a way to learn about music and teach what they know growing up with electronic devices in their back pockets. They are native users. As native technology users they may have a different approach to technology than many of us. To some of us, it might seem backwards. I imagine native users look at technology and think, “Wow! How cool. What can I do with that”? They fit or create music after learning how to use the device. Many of use look at what we know about music and music education and try to fit traditional teaching styles & techniques into the technology.

Possibly my new mantra: Teach music or technology, however you are comfortable. The creativity will follow. For more on this idea, check out Scott Watson’s new book, “Using Technology to Unlock Musical Creativity” published by Oxford University Press http://amzn.to/nfQHc7

For more information about TI:ME ( Technology Institute for Music Educators), visit http://www.ti-me.org/

For more information about the TI:ME Conference 2012, visit http://www.ti-me.org/index.php/conferences/4-2012/177-2012