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School of Music Associate Professor Cathy Clayton has 15 years’ experience in teaching online.  

So, when the University of Utah made the unexpected shift to online learning due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, she knew where to begin. Clayton had previously helped develop three courses at the University of Utah specifically for an online format: World Music, History of Jazz and Introduction to Classical Music. In fact, one of the first things she did as a teaching assistant was help former U Professor Vicki Curry as Dr. Curry was developing an interactive CD-ROM. It was during that process that Clayton first started to consider the needs of students learning at their homes, without live instruction to fill the inevitable gaps. Curry helped her “think through what students will need, without you there in person, in order to understand.” she said. Most importantly: “you can’t assume anything. You have to take them from point A, to point B.”

Clayton affirms that planning an online course ahead of its launch, with plenty of time to consider its objectives, is a different case entirely from shifting gears halfway through the semester. It has been challenging for her even with her extensive experience. Still, she hopes some of the methods she has tested in the past, will be helpful to fellow faculty members figuring it out for the first time. “I try to imitate, step-by-step, the things I would say or do if I was with them in class.” Clayton explained. “And I think about where I want them to be by the end of the unit or module.” For each module, Clayton provides objectives right up front, and much like a syllabus, she gives an outline of the materials she is providing to get students to those goals. For example: an introduction, a selection of reading, a documentary, a short quiz of the main takeaways, and a class discussion.

Clayton believes in and leans on variety in source materials. “There is an old teaching motto that if you tell a student something three times, or in three different ways, they will remember it better.” Beyond effective repetition, variety in media can illuminate important details for different types of learners. Whether it’s YouTube clips, PowerPoint presentations, images, or thought exercises, mixing up methods has helped her ensure that students don’t disengage.

Within assigned readings, there are often key concepts that are the most vital for students to be able to progress. “I’m not looking to rewrite a textbook,” Clayton said. “I want to be able to clearly provide the bullet points of the things I want them to take away from a unit. It helps them if you let them know what you are thinking and what you want them to see.” So, for instance, Clayton will include a timestamp in a given video clip with her own insight: notice here how this instrument is being played, pay special attention to this rhythm, etc. This lets students into her inner reasoning for selecting specific materials.

“I have to say kudos to the students,” she said. “I have had virtually no complaints, no one saying ‘why isn’t this up faster? or ‘why isn’t it done?’ Just words of support and understanding of the situation we are in.” 


Whereas in a live classroom setting, faculty have clearer insight into who might be falling behind, online learning formats require more direct checking in. In maintaining a bit of community, and connecting with students individually, Clayton also finds it helpful to create discussion boards where members of a course can think through a topic together. When students engage in conversation with her and one another, they earn points toward their grades. Clayton will sometimes include writing assignments with self-graded quizzes where the main task for students is to communicate with her where they are in their personal understanding. This way, she can step in and provide additional help. “Even if they are mastering their understanding, they get credit for telling me that.” 

In this challenging time, Clayton feels a great deal of compassion for first-time online teachers, especially as they are having to entirely rethink their original plan.  “The learning curve is individual,” she said. “It’s really hard when you are in the middle of the semester, to revamp your class, as there is work you have not done in creating a written dialogue of your course incorporating all these different mediums. You were planning on being there in person. So, it's been a tremendous amount of work for most faculty, and extremely time consuming.”

Luckily, Clayton’s students have been nothing but patient. “I have to say kudos to the students,” she said. “I have had virtually no complaints, no one saying ‘why isn’t this up faster? or ‘why isn’t it done?’ Just words of support and understanding of the situation we are in.” 

She does hope that this crash course in online technologies may benefit the College of Fine Arts and U overall in the future. “Hopefully something good that comes out of this, is that universally the technology is enhanced so we can use helpful tools going forward, and the things we are learning on the fly now, can be incorporated into our regular courses.”

Still, nothing beats or can replicate educating students live.

“I miss having the one-on-one with the students and feeling like I can communicate with them directly, seeing their faces and fun expressions, and getting immediate feedback in class,” Clayton said. “I will be excited to be right back with the students, even having them laugh at my bad jokes.”  

Published in Finer Points Blog

By Emeri Fetzer

When Utah’s K-12 schools closed in response to COVID-19, graduate students in the U’s Masters of Arts in Teaching - Fine Arts (MAT-FA) program wondered how to move forward with the projects they and their young students were already hard at work on: things like team murals, original music collaborations, and movement activities. The arts are inherently social, interactive, and tangible.

In this new and developing community challenge, how could they push forward, and ensure their students didn’t lose progress, as well as their connection with one another? 

In a time of increasing isolation, the U’s community of fine arts educators leaned on each other for strength and innovation. To brainstorm solutions, MAT-FA graduate students turned to faculty members in the College of Fine Arts who were facing the same complex challenges in taking their university courses online. What resulted from these collaborative conversations were numerous smart solutions, and an abundance of encouragement.

When the pandemic hit, MAT-FA educator Laura Decker and her students at Monticello Academy in West Valley City were working on developing sculptures about culture and identity. In such a hands-on experience, it is difficult to instruct without referring to a physical example. Also, students at home do not have the access to art supplies that they would at their schools.

So, last Monday, on the first official day of online learning for the state of Utah, Monticello Academy students and families came to the school to pick up art project kits along with a piece of clay and art making instructions that Ms. Decker had prepared. The students were incredibly excited to see her and to be back in the school building even for a brief period during this time of uncertainty. Students were thrilled to collect their art kits and for the opportunity to complete their sculptures at home.

By Thursday, three days later, over 50% of the students had finished their sculptures and sent back photos. But Decker wanted her class to see each other’s work and discuss the finished projects as a group. To this end, she is now asking them to take thirty-second, 360° videos of their sculptures and answer a few questions about their process and inspirations, which they will then share collectively. 

Eric Spreng’s middle school band students at The Open Classroom in Salt Lake City were in the midst of writing original musical compositions on the theme of climate change when they were asked to stay home. They were very much looking forward to performing their pieces for each other and their families this April. But like all other live performances nationwide, this was no longer in the cards for this spring.  Spreng MATFA 3Some of Eric Spreng's middle school music students at work, prior to distance learning

After meeting with Jared Rawlings, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the School of Music, Spreng, another standout MAT-FA candidate, is inspired to take a new direction that he hopes will still unite his student musicians. With their own instruments from their private homes, each student will call into a live Zoom session where Spreng will conduct them all together. They hope to send footage of their online concert to the legislature, sharing their climate change ideas and reflections with their local leaders. 

Examples of adapting education to a format for social distancing abound: theatre students in secondary schools discovering and self-taping monologues related to their current emotions, visual art teachers creating tutorials to follow on YouTube tutorials, or live-streaming the painting of a class-planned mural while students to comment on its direction and progress -- the list goes on and on.

One thing is certain, the arts in schools are not going anywhere.

And even while they are digital, their value is deeply felt, by both Utah's young people and our community at large.

To learn more about the U's Master of Arts in Teaching - Fine Arts program, click here. 

Published in Finer Points Blog

Have questions regarding online learning this spring semester? 

Wherever you currently are reading this, the CFA Academic Advisors are available to you through phone and video appointments. 

If you would like to book an advising appointment, please use createsuccess.utah.edu.

A FERPA Pin is required for phone or video advising appointments.
Learn how to get an online FERPA Pin here

Check your Umail for important updates - not just from CFA advising but also the University, your departments, and your instructors. Remember not all messages sent to your Umail will forward to your preferred email so checking your Umail daily is a best practice.
You can send quick advising questions (from your Umail) to . We will get back to you as quickly as possible. 

We are here to help you be successful. 

From the CFA Undergraduate Affairs Academic Advising Team
Andrew Grace, Jennifer McLaurin, Samuel Banford, Eric Schmitz, Rachel Luebbert, April Casiano & Liz Leckie

Published in Finer Points Blog

Since last week's announcement that classes at the University of Utah would be conducted online for the remainder of the semester, many College of Fine Arts students have risen to the challenge with positivity, compassion and drive. Susannah Mecham, a second-year student in the Department of Art & Art History majoring in painting and drawing with a minor in sculpture, decided to start a unique Instagram account where her fellow U students could connect around their creative work.

To foster new connections as well as provide support in an unsteady situation, Mecham established @coronaartcollective where she encourages University of Utah fine arts students to connect and share what they are creating. 

Here's what she had to say about it: 

"Over the course of the last week I was camping out of range of cell service with a group of fellow University of Utah students. It was a very surreal experience to drive home with our phones exploding as we passed signs flashing pandemic hotlines on the freeway, with the person next to me reading through updates from family, friends, government and the university. Everything seemed like it was happening all at once -- because it was for us. I was deeply saddened that I would miss creative opportunities and time within a community that I love.  


"I fully intend to have a prosperous educational experience despite the current COVID-19 situation. I also know that by staying connected to the U I will continue to have the support of those colleagues and educators who have supported my education and the education of so many others. The U as a community has many tools for us to utilize right now, and with a little creativity and togetherness (from a 6 foot safe distance) everyone can move forward."


"I received an email from my sculpture professor, Kelsey Harrison, who suggested that we find ways to connect with other art students to continue critiquing and discussing work. Kelsey also suggested that we continue to be informed about what other people were making and what drives their art practices while our own creative practices as students are being challenged and imposed upon by social distancing and quarantines. IMG 75BCA33FC5F0 1

"After sharing some of my feelings about the situation with my mom, she suggested that I get online and start making things happen! I decided Instagram would be a good platform as it is used widely by creative communities. Since then I have enjoyed watching the creative community respond to the COVID-19 situation by continuing to make art, music, and more. In a time where everything is put on hold and becoming more stagnant, creativity is beginning to flourish and it is very exciting. 

Staying connected to the University of Utah is important to me during this time because I fully intend to have a prosperous educational experience despite the current COVID-19 situation. I also know that by staying connected to the U I will continue to have the support of those colleagues and educators who have supported my education and the education of so many others. The U as a community has many tools for us to utilize right now, and with a little creativity and togetherness (from a 6 foot safe distance) everyone can move forward." 

Follow @coronaartcollective on Instgram to see student work and share your own! 

Do you have a resource you'd like to share with fellow students? Tag us on Instagram at @uofufinearts.

Stay well and stay connected. 

Published in Finer Points Blog

By Sara Kenrick

Hello, College of Fine Arts students! In January I had the chance to sit down and chat with Camille Washington about graduating with an arts degree and getting work in arts administration after college. Currently, Camille works as the marketing and box office manager at Onstage Ogden and co-directs at Good Company Theatre, a theatre she started with her sister.

Camille told me that for her it has been important to keep an open mind when it comes to artistic pursuits. “Right out of college I thought I was going to get a Ph.D. because that’s all I thought you could do.” She explained that opening herself up to different opportunities has been important when creating a successful career in the arts.

 

“Having a real sense of intellectual curiosity has been really important to me…keeping myself open and thinking about the ways my background...could be good in different fields.”

This rang true to me since it seems that every artist I meet has taken a different path from school to career. I asked Camille if she had ever felt barred from doing her art. She described that while she was completing a fellowship at Walker Art Museum, she noticed much of the art on display seemed driven by getting well-known names on the walls and therefore big crowds through the door. Although this may be an environment many would thrive in, she explained that it wasn't quite perfect for her. Now that she’s involved in smaller arts organizations, she feels “much more comfortable because the decision making is quicker, there’s more collaboration, and failure doesn’t feel like such a disaster.” Exploring a lot of different artistic environments can help you find what works best for you.


Finally, I asked Camille what she would tell her younger self. Camille paused before saying, “Don’t be so hard on yourself.” I was happy to hear this response since all of the students I know are working themselves to the bone, getting no sleep, and doing amazing work, myself included.

I know I should take more moments to be compassionate towards myself and know that not everything that goes “wrong” is going to be my fault.

 

A few ArtsForce Takeaways

  • Keep yourself open to new paths and opportunities.

  • Figure out what environments help you thrive.

  • Don’t be so hard on yourself.

 It was an absolute delight to talk to Camille about her experiences and insights. I hope you can take into account some of her advice. Click here to learn more about Good Company Theatre and see their upcoming season! 

ArtsForce is working on bringing you more advice from local artists so stay tuned for more! If you would like to join ArtsForce and come to our upcoming events, check out this link! 

Author Sara Kenrick is a Film and Media Arts Major with an emphasis in Film Production and a minor in Theatre. She is an Emerging Leaders Intern at ArtsForce.

ArtsForce is a student-led organization dedicated to articulating the value of your artsdegree and helping you transition from college to the workforce.

Published in Finer Points Blog

MAKING ART WORK is a series that taps into the knowledge and experience of seasoned creatives from our community and beyond for the benefit of our students.

Rod Davis is the vice president of Music Business Affairs for Sony Pictures Entertainment. In this role, Davis is responsible for handling music transactions from negotiations for composers, musicians, and music supervisors, to recording artists and soundtrack album agreements for feature films, television series, game shows and interstitial works. Davis earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Utah School of Music, his master’s in Music at University of Southern California, and his J.D. at Southwestern University School Law School. Prior to his work at Sony Pictures Entertainment, Davis acted as senior counsel to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, handling music rights and transactions for the studio.

What was your early relationship to music? What were your initial career ambitions?

I have played piano since I was seven years old. Initially, I was planning on becoming a concert pianist, but I quickly realized that I was going to enjoy teaching music rather than living the life of a professional touring musician. Eight hours a day of practicing alone in a room is a big commitment -- there are people that can do that, but that life was not for me. So, when I went to the University of Utah, I sought a degree in music education, with the goals to teach high school music and then eventually teach at the university level.  

However, all of a sudden you can come to a divide in the road and take a different career path. Fortunately for me it was not a true diversion, because I have always stayed in music. 


Who were your most impactful mentors at the University of Utah?


I had some wonderful professors while at the U: specifically, Dr. Newell Weight, the conductor of the University of Utah A Cappella Choir and music education professor, Dr. Ed Thompson who replaced Dr. Weight conducting the A Cappella Choir and later became the chair of the music department, and Betty Jeanne Chipman who was an amazing voice teacher. I accompanied Chipman’s students in their voice lessons and performances.

The traits and similarities about these three people were: they had a real passion for music, they were musically gifted, and they diligently worked to accomplish their goals. You could tell they loved music, it was in their souls. They had a desire to teach and to share. That combination inspired me. It is why I continued on in music education and eventually was hired to teach music at Bountiful High School, a job I truly loved.

When did law come into the picture?

I wanted to teach high school music and then move to the university setting, so the career path looked like: get a master’s degree and then my doctorate. Dr. Weight had earned a graduate degree at the University of Southern California.  I truly admired him, so I decided that’s where I would go. I went to USC to get my master’s in music. And that’s where I first became aware of music law and music attorneys, careers I had never heard of before.

In high school I had two real passions: music, and speech & debate. Even back then, I was thinking of pursuing music education, or possibly law. All of a sudden in midstream of my music teaching career, when I found out there were attorneys practicing music law -- it was like a lightbulb was turned on. 

This was a way to combine my two passions – Music and Law.
I love my job. I love what I do, and it’s music continually, every day.

What do you consider your first big break?

I had just graduated from law school, passed the bar exam, and was looking for a job. On the back page of Variety, the motion picture entertainment magazine, there was an ad placed by MGM studios (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer). They were seeking an attorney for their Music Affairs group with at least two years’ law firm experience. Well, I was right out of law school. But, while I was there, I was a legal intern with Warner/Chapell Music, one of the largest music publishers in the world, and with ABC television. Therefore, I had some legal experience in entertainment, and a lot of experience in music. I sent in my resumé. Shortly thereafter, they asked me to come in for an interview and then another interview.  It was a really coveted position with numerous applicants. When they offered me the job, it was just like a dream come true.

I knew there were so many candidates from law firms that had applied. When I asked MGM  why they had chosen me for the job, they said they wanted a music attorney that could do all the legal work and analysis, but also truly knew music as a musician. 

We’re in the business of creating tremendous amounts  of music for our motion pictures. There could be situations where we find out that someone is infringing  one of the studio’s music copyrights, or someone makes a claim that someone else’s music has been used in one of our motion pictures without authorization. At this point there are  two steps of analysis that need to be done: first, music analysis (  Has there been copying with the harmonic structure, melody, or rhythm, etc.?) Secondly, legal analysis (Are these two pieces of music substantially similar in a legal context?).  Because of my background, I was able to do both types of analysis. And that’s why the studio selected me.

 

The thing I want to share with students is just how big the music industry is. It’s not just performance -- of course without performance, writing and composing, you wouldn’t have music. But whether you are talking about all of the record labels, film and television producers, music publishers, managers, agents, and all of the products that require music, the industry is quite expansive.

 

What are some highlights of your work so far?

I was able to assist in the music legal affairs transactions for several “James Bond” movies, which was exciting, and also “Men in Black,” “Jumanji”, “Spider-Man”…

But I have to say that one project that I really enjoyed and stands out was being the music affairs attorney on the television series “Breaking Bad”. For all its seasons, it was such a complex show, and the music was so unique. From the music by the composers, to what they were licensing, they were finding music in the strangest places and I had to make sure it was all legally clear. It was really something I was so proud to have been a part of.

Another project is the “Outlander” series which season 5 is currently airing on Starz. I love “Outlander”.  It's such a great property and handling the music affairs for it is really rewarding.

What advice would you give undergraduates? 


The thing I want to share with students is just how big the music industry is. It’s not just performance -- of course without performance, writing and composing, you wouldn’t have music. But whether you are talking about all of the record labels, film and television producers, music publishers, managers, agents, and all of the products that require music, the industry is quite expansive. Music is pervasive in our society, it’s around us all the time, and there are many players making it happen. The world is wide open. The most important thing is honing your skills and becoming the best person you can, and the best musician or artist you can. When you strengthen those skills, you put yourself into a marketable position. There’s so much out there to be part of in music and the fine arts.

You might think that there’s one thing you want and that’s the only option for your career. When music law became available, in my case, it opened up so many new and wonderful opportunities for me. There are music scenes all over -- from classical to popular, to hip hop, jazz, symphonic orchestras, video games or even the music you hear on your phone when you’re on hold, or in the restaurant, or in a movie theatre. There are organizations out there to help collect income for the writers, and the performers. To be part of it, where every day you have contact with music, if you have the passion for it, there are so many avenues that you can pursue.

I started as a music teacher at Bountiful High School with 120 students in the choral department and within five years I built up the department to where I was teaching 500 students a day — almost half of the students at the high school were participating in music courses. People enjoy being a part of music. To leave what was a successful teaching career and change direction, it had to be something that would be just as rewarding, stimulating, and exciting, and it was! I’m glad I took that leap of faith.   


Published in Finer Points Blog
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