Music school receives two $1 million grants

Christina Chaey

The Bienen School of Music received two $1 million grants that will allow the school to pursue development in distance learning and jazz education, according to a press release.

The Davee Foundation Grant will allow the school to broadcast student and faculty performances and increase the number of interactive master classes the school offers via Internet2, an online research and education networking consortium. The Owen L. Coon Foundation Grant will contribute to the development and expansion of jazz programs.

Music Dean Toni-Marie Montgomery said while she supports distance learning for music education classes such as music theory and musicology, it should not be a substitute for one-on-one training or smaller classes with intimate environments.

“You need to be there,” she said. “We use this technology to augment the training we’re providing, but not as a replacement.”

The Davee Initiative will also be a way for family and friends of music students to access performances via the Pick-Staiger Concert Hall Web site, said Richard Van Kleeck, director of concerts at Pick-Staiger.

The grant will be used to name the existing distance initiative for Ruth Davee, Weinberg ’37, a School of Music Advisory Board member. The school will continue to use the Davee Distance Learning Initiative as an admissions tool, Van Kleeck said.

This fall, the school has facilitated online Web chats between music student ambassadors and prospective students after every live broadcast, said Music junior Joseph Baldwin, the government chairman on the school’s student advisory board.

The Owen L. Coon Jazz Fund, the program’s first-ever endowment, will reinvigorate the previously underdeveloped program, Montgomery said. The jazz program, which was suspended for the 2007-2008 academic year because the school could not find a satisfactory director, is now in a position to become one of the best in the country, Baldwin said.

“In the past few years, the Bienen School has put money into programs that have been weak for several years,” he said. “A lot of students would say that program needed money for awhile.”

In addition to supporting a greater number of guest musicians, lectures and faculty performances, the Coon Grant will also allow the jazz orchestra to go on tours and give jazz students more opportunities to perform downtown and purchase necessary equipment and instruments, Montgomery said.

Although Montgomery said she believes NU is leading among the nation’s top universities in distance learning for music, she would like to see the jazz program rival programs at Yale and Indiana universities and conservatories such as the Julliard School.

“We’ve had the program for awhile, but with the new faculty and new director, the goal is really to be first-class and in competition with the best jazz programs at universities and conservatories,” she said.

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