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Purchase College Receives Grant For Music App

PURCHASE, N.Y. – Faculty members at Purchase College, SUNY are developing an app for tablets and smartphones that they think could revolutionize the music world. The app, which was made possible through a $10,000 grant from the SUNY system, would allow users to develop melodic compositions on a mobile device rather than writing them on paper.

“It’s all about the student learning – I’m really hoping that we’ve got a way that will transform how students think about or approach composing their melodies,” said Keith Landa, director of the college's Teaching, Learning, and Technology Center (TLT), who applied for the grant. “That’s really the main thing.”

The director is teaming up with Jim McElwaine, a professor in music, and Paul Thayer, a TLT designer and developer, on the project. Out of 117 submissions to the SUNY 2012 Innovative Instruction Technology Grants program, 48 projects were chosen, and  Purchase’s “Gestural Melody: New Learning Tools for Musical Composition” was one of them.

“It’s gratifying,” said Landa of receiving the grant. “Jim and I have actually talked about this idea off and on for a couple of years. Then when SUNY had this grant program and was soliciting proposals, I thought I should talk to Jim about this because this could be an opportunity to actually move forward on this idea that we’ve had kicking around for a couple of years.”

Landa said the traditional way of composing music, writing down the melodies using “more formal, various notation schemes” can be an “impediment to really getting their compositions from what they hear in their head into something that can be shared and worked on with others.”

“Jim knows what the impediments of the traditional way are,” said Landa. “This is certainly a way that we can approach that instruction from a different perspective. If nothing else, different students learn in different ways. So this may not be a better approach for every student, but it may be a better approach for a number of students.”

The three team members have had initial discussions about the project.

“It’s basically going to be a matter of sitting down and sketching out a timeline for what we need to do for the next six months to do the development and initial testing,” said Landa. “And then see how we want to get some good experience in the field to really asses the utility of this approach.”

The developed application would be free and anyone could use it, said Landa.

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