Virtual class adds experience, contact

An overseas video conference allowed piano students to participate in a master class with a professor in London through an Internet2 connection Wednesday morning. Jose Feghali, an artist-in-residence and Van Cliburn International Piano Competition gold medalist, said the virtual master class was the first Internet2 video conference for the School of Music.

Ang Li and Alexey Koltakov, both artist diploma students, sat at the piano in PepsiCo Recital Hall on Wednesday morning while taking a class from Christopher Elton.

Elton is the head of keyboard studies at the Royal Academy of Music at the University of London.

Richard Gipson, director of the School of Music, said regular Internet can be compared to a crowded metropolitan highway that will get people where they want to go but at a slow pace. Internet2 is like a separate super highway with no one on it that allows for an almost instantaneous connection, Gipson said.

Feghali said the Internet2 technology has virtually no lag time and will enable the university to Webcast and broadcast lectures, which will widen the reach of the university and, at the same time, bring others into the university.

Provost Nowell Donovan said the video conference master class immediately moves the School of Music to another level.

“Feghali has a wonderful marriage of technological expertise and creativity and is a great artist,” Donovan said.

In a speech given at the fall 2006 Commencement, Chancellor Victor Boschini said the university has been a member of the Internet2 consortium for a number of years but had never fully explored its capabilities until recently.

That same evening, Feghali was presented with the Michael R. Ferrari Award for Distinguished University Service and Leadership for bringing the world to TCU through Internet2.

Donovan said there are not many places in the world capable of having a virtual class, especially those that bring such an international flavor.

Feghali said Internet2 is only available to educational and research organizations that pay well into five figures to get the connection. The School of Music already had some of the other equipment needed, Feghali said, but they did have to purchase a plasma screen television.

Li said this was her first time to participate in an Internet master class. She said she became curious about the piano when she was about 1-year-old but actually started playing when she was 4.

“This is all very exciting because it is new, and it saves a lot of time traveling and a lot of money,” Li said.

The School of Music will now be able to allow its students to audition and receive lessons from musicians all over the world.

“It allows for more artistic contact as well as practical contact, such as an audition,” Feghali said.

Veda Kaplinsky, head of piano at The Juilliard School and TCU professor of piano, will also benefit from this new technology, Feghali said. Since Kaplinsky will be able to teach private lessons from New York to TCU students.

“We are ready to start deploying this technology, and it means that we are able to have not only master classes with remote teachers from all over the world but also have auditions,” Feghali said.