I just finished a Skype chat with George Litterst, the founder of a company called TimeWarp Technologies.  George is a pianist and music educator that I have used as a source for other articles I have written on the topic of teaching music over the Internet.  He is going to be Skyping in to speak with the audience of a session I will be giving in a couple of weeks at the Iowa Bandmaster's Conference, and he wanted to give me a tour of his Internet MIDI product.  I went into the call expecting to just see little more than a glorified on screen MIDI keyboard, but came out realizing that he has really got some potential there that could become a serious technological tool for the music education classroom.

Essentially Internet MIDI is a live connection between two networked computers on the Internet.  When coupled with the Skype videoconferencing application it allows a teacher in one part of the world to literally teach someone how to play piano without ever meeting them face to face.  Notes played on the student's MIDI keyboard are sent out over the Internet to the teacher who can see and hear the notes along with their velocities and other data.  The teacher can play too, and with the proper equipment can even have one camera pointed at their hands while another points at their face, allowing for more detailed instruction.

The thing that floored me though was the other features that George has built into a companion piece of software called Classroom Maestro that I don't think even he realized the potential of.  Internet MIDI is perfect for teaching piano, but when used with Classroom Maestro it could be a breakthrough application for use in any music classroom when coupled with a video projector or an interactive whiteboard system (IWB).  Playing a note on the keyboard not only shows it on an on screen keyboard, but it can also be displayed on a staff (grand or single, in any of half a dozen different clefs).  Notes can be respelled enharmonically with the touch of a button, and chords can be built and shown in many different ways.  It is an awesome way to show the abstract concepts of chords and scales in an interactive visual context.

Near the end of our conversation I brought up a few ideas that I hope George and his company will consider that could take Internet MIDI and Classroom Maestro from a piano focused product to one that could truly be a breakthrough classroom application for teaching with video projectors and IWB's.  Even in its current state of release the software has definite applications in the classroom today.  Every classroom from general music to band and orchestra, to collegiate theory classes could find a use for it.  I wish him the best in the future development of this application, and I can't wait to see what new features may one day be added to it.

For those who are interested in the Internet MIDI and Classroom Maestro software and want to see what it is all about, please visit TimeWarp Technologies.

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