Monthly Archives: March 2015

Electroacoustica 2015

I’m happy to announce that Foothill College will be presenting its first electronic music festival, Electroacoustica.

I’ve been working to put this together for the last year, and it’s super exciting to see the plan come together. Here’s the little press blurb for the concert:

An impressive lineup of experimental electronic composers will perform their own work over two nights of diverse concert programs. Concert One (April 3rd – 8PM) features Pamela Z, Matt Davignon, and Tom Dambly performing a variety of compositions for voice and electronics, drum machine, and processed trumpet. Concert Two (April 4th – 8PM) is dedicated to the memory of composer Mark Trayle, who had been scheduled to perform on the festival, but recently lost a year-long battle with cancer. The second concert also includes new works by Eric Kuehnl featuring piano with live electronics and the LinnStrument performance controller. The festival will conclude with two compositions by Matt Ingalls mixed live through an eight-speaker sound diffusion system.

Tickets are available now: $10 Students & Seniors/$15 General

Get your tickets soon before they’re gone! (Hopefully…)

That’s Mark Trayle in the photo above, performing Capital Magnetic for credit card reader and musical saws. Mark was my primary composition mentor at CalArts, and chaired the comp department there for many years. He had a huge influence on the next generation of electro-acoustic composers. He will be missed.

Showing Up Is Half The Battle

I’ve been teaching full time for almost three academic years now. In that time, I’ve learned some valuable lessons about myself, my students, and my field. One thing that has become very clear is the difference in student success between those students who participate every week, and those who do not. I just finished grading midterm exams for one of my online music history classes, and the grades were quite predictable. Students who log in every week almost always get an “A” on the midterm or perhaps a “B”, while students who only occasionally log in achieve much lower grades. And I mean MUCH LOWER. There’s a crazy inverted bell curve that occurs in many of my classes, and this class is no different:

50 Students Total

(21) A
(12) B
(4) C
(3) D
(10) F

So, if we correlate those grades to online class participation we can see a clear connection. The “A” and “B” students log in every week without exception. The “C,” “D,” and “F” students log in with less frequency. The sad part (for me) is that I can look at the login stats and know that most of those “C” and “D” grades will become an “F” by the end of the class. But the inverse is also true; many of the “B” students will achieve an “A” by the end of the class (they probably just got off to a slow start and are just getting things figured out). Oh, and almost every student with an “A” at the midterm will finish with an “A.”

I’ve tried a lot of strategies to bring the low-performing students up, but they almost never seem to work. I send reminders, and even occasionally personal notes. I ask them to contact me if they need assistance. It’s very different from a face-to-face class where I can see significant improvement from just one small intervention. But the face-to-face students are a different bunch, especially considering that they are choosing to come to class over taking the class online. (All of my face-to-face classes have a corresponding online-only section.)

Anyway, this is something that I think about at midterm time every term. It kind of gets me down, but after three years I’ve been forced to accept that an (unacceptably) large percentage of my online students will not be successful. But it also creates a talking point for my face-to-face students. In some ways (not all), success in school is similar to success in life; showing up is half the battle.