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A Little Site Music

I'll have to admit to more than a little skepticism when I heard about online courses in music. It seemed to me like the radio station in California I listened to years ago that picked up the broadcast rights for a short-lived professional tennis league. You could hear the constant "poing" of the ball going back and forth, but the real game was impossible to visualize no matter how elaborate the commentary.

Once again the power of distance learning has proven my perspective to be woefully antiquated. One of the nation's premier conservatories, the Berklee College of Music, has taken on the distance learning challenge as an opportunity rather than a threat, and the result is a fine program that features the world's largest music catalog, offering more than 100 accredited courses and 30 certificate programs to more than 25,000 students in 90 countries through their online branch: www.berkleemusic.com.

Many of these courses are a long way from the violin and the practice room. Berkleemusic professor Erik Hawkins, who teaches music production courses such as Pro Tools 110 and Producing Music with Reason from his home studio in Los Angeles, says he strives to keep class content accessible and interesting to all levels of students. That can be a challenge, particularly with ProTools, which is the premiere music editing, mixing and production tool used in studios today. Studying this material is akin to the Microsoft certification program or similar courses offered for Oracle and Sun products.

"For example, beginning in week eight of the Producing Music with Reason course, students start writing and producing their own song that I expect them to have completed, mixed and mastered by the end of week 12 of the course. And in my Remixing with Pro Tools and Reason course, students complete three remix sketches as a warm-up for producing a full-length remix beginning in week seven. It's an intense ride, but there's no better way to hone your music production chops than to apply the production techniques that I'm teaching in the lessons to actual projects."

The online program has Specialist Certificates and Master Certificates in field such as music theory, theory and harmony, keyboard skills and voice technique & musicianship. Some are similar to computer programming degrees; others lock in on the artistic side of the business. One of the more intense offerings would seem to be the Berklee Keyboard Method, a twelve week course that introduces the basics of technique and chord voicings, along with more advanced concepts including interpretation of lead sheets and improvisation.

That's a lot to grasp from online instruction, regardless of the course presentation technology. That's why many Berklee instructors see the online program as an adjunct to campus learning, as well as an outreach tool. Certification in the use of ProTools may get you a job as an IT administrator in a studio and may help with a music career. But a Bachelor's in Fine Arts from Berklee will give you the musical knowledge to take you much further down the paths of composition and performance.

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