Juilliard eLearning, a set of online courses being developed with Connections Education, a Maryland-based company, is a new venture that was announced by President Joseph W. Polisi in May. “Providing exemplary arts education programs to youth and the community has always been central to our mission,” he said of the Connections partnership, which, he added, would complement the Juilliard brand. Tricia Ross, associate vice president for special projects, who helped spearhead the project, noted that it is for students in Kindergarten through 12th grade and that no degrees or certificates will be granted through it.
Juilliard eLearning is expected to go online in January. The first course, Discovery Music, is a basic music course that will be offered at the elementary, middle, and high school levels and is based on and aligned with state and national arts standards. It can be purchased by school systems as well as individuals (mostly likely to be home-schooling families and adult learners); it will also be offered to anyone who is enrolled in a Connections’ virtual school—the company operates 24 of them in 22 states and they serve more than 40,000 students.
Discovery Music represents a merger between the Connections expertise in K-12 curriculum and Juilliard’s in music education. As part of the process of creating the courses, Connections is working with faculty members Michael Shinn and Manuel Sosa as subject-matter experts. At initial brainstorming meetings on how to develop the course, Shinn said, “the biggest question at first was determining what exactly is the Juilliard flavor? What makes this course uniquely Juilliard?” The answer, they eventually determined, was that he and Sosa should “shape and sculpt concepts so they’re taught in a Juilliard way.” Polisi added that using standard repertoire as the foundation upon which the courses will be taught is integral to the Juilliard approach.
For instance, Connections wanted to present a series of ideas—rhythm, notation, orchestral instruments, music history, and musical genres—to students in Grades K-2, 3-5, 4-6, 7-9, and 10-12. “We suggested that maybe we could teach the concepts through the lens of five or six masterpieces,” Shinn said. Among them are Bach’s Wachet auf ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140; Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony; Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto; Chopin’s Nocturne, Op. 9, No. 2; and Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. “We tried to cover as many different genres and instrumentation as possible,” he added, noting that the list of masterpieces will grow over time.
Another approach Juilliard will be using is to not “tightly box” a composer, Shinn said. That is, instead of Beethoven representing only the Classical era, he would also illustrate the transition from Classicism to Romanticism. Also in the works are plans to demonstrate concepts with recordings of Juilliard students and talks or recordings by Juilliard faculty and alumni.
Noting that when he was growing up even his private school didn’t offer music classes, Shinn hailed the Juilliard eLearning’s potential for reaching a variety of people. “The idea is to offer a flavor of the Juilliard experience,” Shinn said. “I really think it’s going to offer a lot of opportunities, including to a tremendous number of students who are underserved.”