Campus: CSU Fullerton -- November 20, 2002
New Piano Lab Is Music to This Professor's Ears
To the uninitiated observer, it may seem like a dream sequence from
some kind of art-house film: 20 diligent music majors sitting at pianos
wearing headphones, focusing on monitors featuring a bouncing ball that
guides them through the notes of a melody. In unison, they play the
music on their keyboards … but not a sound can be heard.
From a raised platform at the front of the room, Martha Baker-Jordan,
Cal State Fullerton emeritus professor of music, can hear, through headphones,
any or all of her students — music majors whose instruments of
choice are not piano — with the touch of a button. And through
their own headphones, students can hear themselves play, in addition
to Baker-Jordan or a duet partner — depending on the configuration
the professor selects. Within her reach is a computer where, with a
click of the mouse she can slow down or speed up the tempo of the music
being projected on the monitors and make key changes to the score, among
many other features.
All of this can be accomplished in a new piano lab that was installed
just before fall classes began. Manufactured and installed by the Roland
Corp., the instruments and equipment represent “phenomenal technology
and learning tools,” says Baker-Jordan. “At this point in
education, when there’s technology like this, we should have it.”
If the thought of not hearing the ivories being tickled seems odd, imagine
Baker-Jordan’s audio experience when she started teaching at Cal
State Fullerton in 1975, as her students filled the air with the sounds
of 20 pianos playing simultaneously. A few years later, the first piano
lab was installed, featuring Wurlitzer electronic keyboards that could
be listened to with headphones and thus, not interfere with other players
in the room. The next upgrade followed in 1986 with a Yamaha Clavinova
lab. By then, according to Baker-Jordan, the technology had advanced,
and she could single her students out to hear them individually and
pair them with their classmates so that they could work with each other.
By the time the current lab came to fruition, the 16-year-old Yamaha
system was clearly past ts prime. Says Baker-Jordan, “It was worn
out, getting static. Our technicians couldn’t upgrade it any more.”
So she proposed and pushed for a new lab — and credits College
of the Arts Dean Jerry Samuelson and Gordon Paine, former music chair,
with bringing it to fruition.
And, how do students benefit from this technology?
“The main thing that this does for the students are the visuals,
in my opinion, the bouncing ball, the music tutor, being able to project
anything in any key. This is really important for these kids, because
they’re not going to be pianists. They’re going to be trumpet
teachers and vocal teachers, and they have to be able to get around
the keyboard and function in something besides C-major.
“These pianos have disk drives, so students can have their own
disks and make up their own exercises. They record themselves as they’re
practicing and can listen back, which trains the ear to be so much more
Another advantage of the pianos, which are digital, continues Baker-Jordan,
“is that they’re superior instruments. They’re as
close to pianos as you can get. They have what’s called weighted
key action, so that as you press on the keys harder, you get more sound.
With the previous ones, you could only play loud or soft — you
With a myriad of features, including a built-in synthesizer that can
be programmed to create organ, guitar, bass, strings and other instrumental
sounds, Baker-Jordan hopes that composition and theory classes will
utilize the lab as well.
Media Contacts: Martha Baker-Jordan, emeritus professor of music, (714)
278-3537 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Gail Matsunaga, Public Affairs, (714) 278-4851 or email@example.com
Photos: Images of Baker-Jordan teaching in the new lab can be downloaded
from the university’s Web site at www.fullerton.edu/paweb/news.html.