MAESTRO: Using Technology to Improve Kinesthetic Skill Learning of Music Conductors

The goal of this project is to develop a virtual conducting system that would allow for the refinement of kinesthetic skills that are essential to creating subtle gestures improving music conductor performance and confidence on the podium. This project will support the learning of kinesthetic conducting skills while furthering development of essential musical and cognitive skills. The proposed system, titled Maestro, will incorporate a combination of high quality sensing, artificial vision-based gesture following, and novel approach for sound synthesis to provide the conductor with instant audible feedback that is directly related to subtle variations of their conducting gestures. Maestro, in its current iteration, was designed in conjunction with the development of a supportive curriculum intended for use in an undergraduate introductory conducting course. This research will implement and evaluate the Maestro system and the corresponding curriculum in conducting courses in the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, and Dance (SMTD). The students will learn to use the Maestro system during individual practice in and out of class. These practice opportunities will support the learning outcomes of the course curriculum. Currently there are few opportunities for music conductors to practice their gestural skills with real-time audio feedback due to the reliance on live musicians for immediate response. Consequently, a well-designed virtual learning tool could enhance current traditional conducting pedagogy and increase the mastery rate of kinesthetic conducting skills. The project will be evaluated by assessing the mastery of the kinesthetic skills and increased confidence in skill-use on the podium for subjects using the system compared to a control student group.

With Maestro, there is interest in connecting the worlds of music technology and music education in a meaningful way that could affect the nature of conducting pedagogy at the University of Michigan and beyond. The development of a system such as Maestro that allows technology to fill a gaping hole in the traditionally non-technological processes of conducting pedagogy is an exciting opportunity to bring these areas together and has the potential to bring the University of Michigan to the forefront of technology integration into the music classroom – an area largely void of meaningful technology integration. The desired result of this work is to provide a new alternative to current music conducting pedagogy that enhances conductors’ development of gestures affecting a full range of musical expression. With proper development, implementation, and evaluation, the Maestro system has the potential to become a meaningful tool used in music teacher training programs by conducting teachers across the country.

Project Team:

Andrea E. Brown, Assistant Director of Bands, School of Music, Theatre and Dance