As one of the top conservatories in the world, the Manhattan School of Music in New York City prepares its students to play in the best symphonies and orchestras. Its teachers are renowned artists who maintain international touring schedules while mentoring rising stars in jazz and classical music. Sixteen years ago, the Manhattan School of Music became the first conservatory in the U.S. to use mobile videoconferencing when violinist and conductor Pinchas Zukerman began exploring the technology for distance learning in the arts. Today, the school uses an HD telepresence solution from Polycom that includes room-based videoconferencing systems installed on campus and mobile devices that travel with the artists.
Christianne Orto, Associate Dean and Directory of the conservatory’s Recording and Distance Learning program, describes how the Manhattan School of Music uses mobile videoconferencing to connect artists with their students, no matter where in the world they happen to performing.
TechDecisions: How does the Manhattan School of Music use mobile videoconferencing?
Orto: It was Mr. Zukerman’s pioneering vision to think of incorporating videoconferencing in his classes. He can still reach his students in NYC from anywhere in the world. He has easily doubled or tripled the number of lessons per year that he can give. Virtual learning is absolutely efficient and effective. Also, a visiting guest artist, the American baritone Thomas Hampson, has taken to tele-mentoring a handful of voice students. He uses the Polycom app on his iPad to reach back to students, wherever - Vienna, Zurich, Pittsburgh - his touring schedule takes him.
TechDecisions: What are the best practices you’ve found when using mobile videoconferencing?
Orto: Enterprise-grade products really have the edge in terms of A/V quality and network performance. They can handle the vagaries of network performance and bandwidth and enable a more seamless, transparent experience. You wouldn’t be able to comment the presence of a top leader in any field if you’re presenting them with a platform that’s not of the highest quality - you can’t put them in a situation if it won’t enable them to work as they need to. Firewall traversal is very important; having H460 is key for us because we have to connect with hotel networks and other remote regions. Also, [we need] ease of use, reliability, wireless, and robustness [of] networks. They need to be able to just log in and go.
TechDecisions: What are the pain points you’ve dealt with?
Orto: There have been great improvements with [dealing with the] firewall, but still come up with network barriers in hotels or corporate settings. This is the biggest issue - enterprise software runs really well once it’s up. We have really high quality audio and HD video - it just works. We have a specialized application - we need really high fidelity sound. This is not something most vendors consider important. But if you can’t hear a videoconference, you don’t have a videoconference. It’s a show stopper if you can’t hear them. You need to hear the nuance of the voice, what is communicated - you need that in a high quality way to make good decisions about what’s communicated. Also, with video, you don’t want network congestion.
TechDecisions: Can you recommend any budget savers?
Orto: Just using mobile technology saves money, if you’re dealing with a decentralized workforce as we are. Artists are worldwide and we can’t bring them to New York as much as we’d like. The solution is in itself a savings.