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Tyler Bouttavong, a music graduate student, works on a recording assignment at his home digital audio workstation.
the University of Delaware moved to distance learning this spring in
response to the coronavirus pandemic, Prof. Mark Clodfelter said he
first thought about the limitations this would impose on his teaching
and his trumpet students no more individual, in-person instruction on
their instruments, no more ensembles gathering on a stage to rehearse
But those thoughts lasted only a few minutes, said Clodfelter, professor of trumpet in the School of Music.
Instead, he immediately began thinking about how to transform his
classes in a way that would continue to motivate and inspire his
students as they learned and, perhaps, even add some new elements to
I tried to imagine something that would not only be continued
learning, but possibly be even more engaging and exciting, something
meaningful and new, he said.
I talk to my students all the time about seizing opportunities when
they arise, and this seemed like the time to do that. I feel that we
cant be defined by limitations. We must take the space we have and
define our creativity within that space.
Clodfelter, who is in his first
year on the UD faculty, does a lot of studio teaching with specialized
one-on-one instruction and leads a trumpet ensemble and a repertory
class. By the time classes resumed at the University in late March, he
had adapted all his instruction to new formats that, he said, are
designed to provide not just the traditional course content but also
ways for students to develop new skills through the online experience.
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
Music instructors have often given occasional lessons via video
formats such as Skype when travel or performance schedules took them
away from their students for brief periods, but now all of Clodfelters
trumpet students interact with him from a distance. The lessons continue
uninterrupted, however, and have been enhanced by the addition of
digital audio workstation (DAW) instruction to the syllabus.
In the student trumpet ensemble, the musicians now record their parts
at home, using either a click track (a virtual metronome used to
synchronize audio recordings) or a conducting video, and Clodfelter is
editing the submissions into a single performance that the group can
share and critique.
His repertory class has hosted online guest speakers this semester
top people, the variety and number of which I could never have afforded
to bring to campus in person in a single semester, he said. These
guests bring fresh perspectives and viewpoints to the class.
Remaking the syllabus has been a lot of work, but I actually had a
good time with the creative process. The things my students are doing
are all things you do as a performing musician, since its not uncommon
for musicians to not all be in the recording studio at the same time.
Our students are spread out, from coast to coast, but theyre still
collaborating and learning together.
The use of DAW technology is a significant addition to his trumpet
performance lessons. For one such project, Clodfelters wife, the
respected collaborative pianist Rebecca Wilt, played and recorded the
piano part to an assigned selection. This recording was then sent to the
student musicians from Clodfelters home studio. Each student then
prepared, performed and recorded the trumpet part, while listening to
the piano track, and sent the produced audio back to Clodfelter. The
tracks were all graded and shared in a virtual studio recital.
Students say the process has been an especially positive learning experience.
Taryn Hairston, who just completed her first year as a UD trumpet student, practices at her home in Texas.
The recording process is great practice for what most musicians will
experience in the professional world, said Taryn Hairston, who just
completed her first year as a UD student majoring in applied trumpet
performance. She came to UD from her home in Texas after working with
Clodfelter via Skype lessons while in high school. I have just
started diving into DAWs and audio software, but I know for a fact that
learning how to engineer tracks will be a very useful skill in [my]
Although his students resources at home vary, with some having
limited space for recording or less sophisticated microphones, for
example, they have all been able to use a DAW program that is available
free of charge during the pandemic, Clodfelter said.
For Tyler Bouttavong, a graduate teaching assistant pursuing a
masters degree in trumpet performance, DAWs arent entirely new. Before
starting graduate school, he taught music and performed for a few years
and was familiar with the recording process.
Now, he said, To be recording audio and video for private trumpet
lessons and trumpet ensemble has been an incredible experience. This
is such an important skill to have as a modern-day musician.
Both Bouttavong and Hairston said they were nervous and a bit
skeptical about the transition to distance learning. They described the
interactions with other musicians as essential to the creative process,
but, they both said, students are continuing to find ways to collaborate
from their separate spaces.
At first, I did not know how remote private lessons were going to
happen, but I was determined to make the best of it, Bouttavong said.
I always come into my online lessons determined to learn as much as
possible, and I always leave inspired.
Hairston, a first-generation college student, admits that she misses
the in-person social aspect of performing with others, but she
appreciates the interactions that technology makes possible.
My experience with learning online has expanded my appreciation of
teachers, she said, describing her instructors as more than
understanding about the challenges students experience. Though I
really chose UD because of Professor Clodfelter, I truly feel like I hit
the jackpot in regards to the rest of the staff and faculty.
As for Clodfelter, he said hes been impressed by his students ability to adapt and stay engaged.
Learning to use DAWs is an important, real-world skill that theyll
be able to use for the rest of their lives, he said. I give them
creative projects, and theyre learning to use the tools. We have some
wonderful, creative students at UD, and were getting some fantastic
To see how students and Clodfelter work with DAW-based lessons, view this video.
Article by Ann Manser; photos courtesy of Taryn Hairston, Tyler Bouttavong and Mark Clodfelter; video by Mark Clodfelter
Published June 3, 2020