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Loudon Stearns is the director of live experience design and academic technology at Berklee NYC. He is also course author and instructor at Berklee Online, where he focuses on showing students how to analyze contemporary styles and use the latest music technology in their own works. An innovator in both education and art, Stearns authored a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) called Introduction to Music Production, providing high-quality free education to hundreds of thousands of students. He received awards from the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) for excellence in teaching and from the Emerson College Visual and Media Art Department for excellence in media art.
Stearns has a Bachelor of Music in contemporary writing and production and bass performance from Berklee, and a Master of Fine Arts in media art from Emerson. He pulls from a broad range of skills in the creation of multimedia performances that include live music, projection-mapping, dance, visual art, and interactivity. Of particular interest to Stearns is using the world as a performance space by using internet streaming to coordinate numerous performers and audiences on different parts of the globe. The technical and aesthetic challenges of this type of performance are new and exciting, and require the sort of broad skill set that Stearns has developed through his extensive education in music, sound, performance, motion graphics, photography, programming, and construction.
"When I graduated from Berklee, I was part of the initial push to get computers for all the students. I was hired to train faculty and to help maintain computers. I worked with Jerry Smith, who was the technology coordinator for the writing division, and he and I put together a package that every writing division student would get. Then the whole college came on board. When I was a student taking those courses, I had access to the computer only three to four hours a week. I took it on myself to buy myself a computer; I spent a lot of money to set myself up. But now everyone has these options. And every semester we're updating our curriculum as a new program comes out."
"I also work with the online school. The cool thing about it is that the students taking my technology courses are already into technology. So there's no learning curve. I'm always checking my email, I'm always online, so it just fell into my lifestyle very easily. Teaching's just a matter of chatting with more friends. Over there we have one-hour-a-week chat sessions, and I run them through things in the program. You don't have to show up, but if they like me drilling them, they can show up. I meet people from all over the world. I've had students in my classes from France and Hong Kong and Sweden. It's just fun."
"I like making the content for them, too. It's a more relaxed atmosphere, just sitting in your office deciding how best to present this material. Is it best presented with a video, with a piece of text, with a custom app that Berklee Online makes for me? Some of the things I do online I can't do in the classroom. I do a series of videos where the student sees my hands on the keyboard, sees the Ableton program right there, and it has my voiceover. In the classroom I don't have a camera guy at my back. Another of the things I do is like a VH1 pop-up video. You watch the waveform of the tune, but every time that I hear something important, a little observation pops up."
"People like learning on their own schedule. For some material, it makes much more sense to go at your pace. I struggle with that in the classroom all the time. If the students miss one button press, then they don't have the next item, and I have to backtrack. In the online school, if they didn't catch it, they can go back. For some kinds of material, it's very good."