As a student in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley tickles the ivories of her home piano, Montana Western music professor Gay Garard-Brewer sees and hears the notes nearly 150 miles away.
Using her state-of-the-art acoustic/digital Yamaha Disklavier Grand piano, a digital camera and an internet connection, Garard-Brewer is able to remotely teach students who otherwise might not be able to get a personalized piano lesson.
“You can individualize instruction at a distance, and that’s what’s exciting about what we’re doing,” she explains.
Garard-Brewer is at the forefront of a new testing program using TimeWarp and Internet MIDI technologies. The technologies allow both pupil and professor to see and hear exactly what each other are playing on digitally capable pianos across large distances. Garard-Brewer even headed a lab on the technologies at the 2009 National Music Teachers Association Conference in Atlanta.
Garard-Brewer was born in Three Forks, Mont. and earned both a Bachelor of Music degree in music piano performance and a Master of Arts degree in music history & literature from the University of Montana. She most recently earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in piano pedagogy from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
You can individualize instruction at a distance, and that’s what’s exciting about what we’re doing.
Music is a way of life in Garard-Brewer’s family.
Her grandmother played piano for silent movies for over 20 years beginning in 1912 and both her parents were active in public school band and choir. Her husband, Albert, also teaches at Montana Western, is an accomplished vocalist and musician as well.
In 2001, Gay and Albert opened the Oceanside Academy of Performing Arts in San Diego with their daughter, Martha, an accomplished opera singer in her own right. The non-profit academy taught music to inner city minorities and produced award-winning theatre.
Garard-Brewer says new technologies like TimeWarp are perfectly suited for colleges in rural ares like Dillon. She hopes to continue to use both traditional and cutting-edge methods to enhance musical education on campus and in the community, building on her grandmother’s tradition while embracing the possibilities of the future.