Berklee Today

Berklee Beat:
Berklee Explores Options for Distance Learning

Berklee continues to expand upon its use of modern videoconferencing technology to teach music across great distances.

Gary Burton in Boston demostrates an idea on the vibes for alumni in Burbank
Photo by Lester Cohen
Greek composer Thanos Mikroutsikos and Gary Burton (center), in Athens, Greece, after a cyberdiscussion with a gathering of composition students and faculty in Boston
Photo by Emily Singer

On October 26, 2001, Executive Vice President Gary Burton and renowned Greek composer Thanos Mikroutsikos taught a master class on location at the Berklee International Network partner school, the Philippos Nakas Conservatory, in Athens, Greece. They addressed Greg Fritze's class of Berklee student composers assembled in the David Friend Recital Hall in Boston.

The interactive format allowed students to ask questions to Mikroutsikos and Burton across the ocean. After the event, the students were overwhelmingly enthusiastic, commenting on the possibilities presented by this new technology. Composition Department Chair Greg Fritze said, "Thanos would not have been able to take time out from his busy schedule to come to Boston, but through videoconferencing Berklee students had the opportunity to interact with one of the world's foremost composers."

On November 18, Gary Burton conducted another distance learning session entitled "Advanced Concepts in Improvisation" at Berklee's David Friend Recital Hall in Boston to a gathering of alumni at Dolby Laboratories in Burbank, California. The class was a rare educational opportunity since Burton has not taught in the classroom very much over the past 10 years. It was a great chance for alumni to hear about jazz improvisation from an acknowledged master in the field.

The virtual classroom had alumni in the state-of-the-art Dolby screening theater watching a wall-sized screen as Burton discussed concepts, demonstrated at the piano and vibes, and illustrated ideas on a white board. Alumni were also able to engage in a question and answer session that completed the feeling of both locations being linked in real time through technology. Afterwards, Paul Tavenner '86 said, "I never had the opportunity to study wth Gary at Berklee and had always regreted it. This was great. His presentation was excellent and very well laid out."

—Emily Singer and Peter Gordon