Texas State Music partners with German university for virtual collaboration
Texas State University’s School of Music is partnering with Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) to develop virtual collaborations, such as guest lectures, master classes, and joint digital courses to teach music.
“Virtual Music Teaching in Art and Academia” is a 12-month project funded by a grant from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). The project is expected to promote skills in various music-related subjects and intercultural exchange between faculty and students.
Dr. Nico Schüler, University Distinguished Professor of Music Theory & Musicology, is representing Texas State. Co-leaders at JGU are Dr. Stefanie Acquavella-Rauch and Dr. Birger Petersen. In June, Schüler saw the announcement of the DAAD grant and the application was complete by the mid-July deadline.
“The money (€73,000 or about $85,000) is primarily for the German side of the project. They encouraged German universities to partner with an American institution,” Schüler said. “I thought it would be good for both sides. It offers us the possibility of cooperating in the classroom, to having guest speakers on both sides, and also student exchange.”
In a press release Acquavella-Rauch explained: "Our objective is to master the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic and at the same time take advantage of the opportunities virtuality offers. 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."
Schüler said that the switch to virtual teaching and learning has gone much smoother in the U.S. than it has in Germany. The project will use online platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Moodle and SmartMusic, which is widely used in the U.S.
There will be synchronous online courses, lectures, and concerts that students in Mainz and San Marcos can access. Progress of the project, as well as the courses, will be documented and made available on a website.
“We will share our expertise,” Schüler said. He does not see language as a problem, emphasizing that most people in Germany speak English. In Germany, he said, they are cognizant of “constant renewal,” which is why there is such a quick turnaround time for awarded grants.
Some of the Texas State faculty interested in developing this collaboration with JGU include: Dr. Ian Davidson, Regent’s and University Distinguished Professor of Music; Daris Hale, senior lecturer of bassoon and Fulbright Campus Liaison; Dr. Lynn Ledbetter, professor of violin; Dr. Jason Kwak, professor of piano and director of the TXST International Piano Festival; Myra Vassian, senior lecturer of voice; Dr. Todd Oxford, associate professor of saxophone; Dr. Richard Novak, assistant professor of voice; Dr. Marc Reynolds, director of Opera Studies; Dr. Vanguel Tangarov, associate professor of clarinet; Dr. Dimitar Ninov, senior lecturer of music theory; and Dr. Alec Scherer, assistant professor of music education.
Schüler, a native of Greifswald, Germany, joined Texas State in 2001 as coordinator of music theory. His main research interests are interdisciplinary aspects of modern music, methods and methodology of music research, computer applications in music, music theory pedagogy, as well as creativity. He teaches both undergraduate and graduate classes. This semester he is teaching Aural Skills 1, Methods of Music Analysis, and Graduate Music Theory. He is the chair of the University Performing Arts Committee and co-chair of the International Advisory Council.
Schüler said this kind of project has potential for other departments on campus. “My dream would be to expand this so other departments could collaborate with each other,” he said.