Published: March 21, 2019 By

john Drumheller teaching

Online piano class, music technology and more await you this summer at the College of Music.

It may still look like winter out there, but the College of Music has its lineup set for a summer of fun and enlightening music courses. Whether you’re into heavy metal, jazz, or music history, odds are you can find your musical cup of tea.

Piano Class I: Online

For the sixth time, Professor of Piano Pedagogy Alejandro Cremaschi will be teaching Piano Class I online during B Session. While the idea of learning piano at a distance might seem hard to imagine, Cremaschi says he’s worked with students to make the system work better every year.

“Some of the people online are not in Boulder, they’re at home somewhere in the country, so they can learn from where they are. It’s also helpful for me to be able to teach anywhere. This year I’ll be in Brussels for a conference during part of the class.”

The class is taught asynchronously, meaning there are no video meetings. However, Cremaschi says technological advances have made digital learning easier.

“We use Canvas as the main repository of materials, including videos I have created for each unit, which explain the pieces students are learning and model the technique. We also use Piano Marvel, which contains all the pieces they learn in sequential order and gives students instant feedback, telling them when they’re playing wrong notes or rhythms, and giving them a score.”

Cremaschi, himself a long-time programmer, also developed his own app for the class: MusicU. It’s a web-based app that allows students to use their phone or computer to create and share audio and MIDI recordings from digital keyboards for their assignments.

“It also allows them to join specific groups of students and share their videos so they can give each other feedback. It creates a community, even though everyone is very far apart.”

The class piano instructors at the College of Music also use of the app to allow their students to share video recordings throughout the year, helping grow this digital community further.

“They do a Recording of the Week, which allows us to monitor their progress and provide feedback,” he explains.

Cremaschi adds, this format could be the way of the future for music pedagogy.

“Online offerings have been growing exponentially in the last 10 years. It’s convenient for students because they can work at their own pace and be away from campus.”

The target audience for the summer online piano class is beginners, who Cremaschi says can learn more easily through digital methods. In-person Piano Class I is still taught during the A and B sessions.

Topics in Music Technology: Digital Music and Video

A different kind of technology comes into focus during the Maymester course Topics in Music Technology: Digital Music and Video, taught by Instructor of Composition and Music Technology John Drumheller.

“It’s basically a film scoring class. We talk about how to synchronize video and sound and we learn different applications like Logic Pro, Reason 10 and other apps you can use to compose music or create sound design.”

Drumheller, who now directs Music Technology at the College of Music and helped launched the program when he was a doctoral student here, says he started from scratch with not much more than an abiding interest in the discipline.

“When I first started doing electronic music, it was all analog with tape in the 80s. Then when I was the music tech TA here in the 90s, the technology was digital and MIDI was the next big thing. Computers weren’t as powerful and synthesizers connected to the computer controlled the sound then. The technology has come a long way since.”

In this summer class, which Drumheller says is popular among both Certificate in Music Technology students and non-music students, he focuses on sound design in films rather than a high-level introduction to music technology.

“We actually watch a couple of films and take them apart, focusing on the music and the sound design. One is ‘The Red Violin,’ which most of the students have never seen.”

Drumheller says the class is meant to be fun and informative for anyone with an interest in music—including graduate and undergraduate students. Contact Drumheller about prerequisite requirements by emailing him at

Introduction to Audio Recording

If you’re one of the many non-music students clamouring to learn a thing or two about audio recording from the College of Music’s expert engineer, then the Maymester crash course in Introduction to Audio Recording is for you.

“When they opened the Music Technology certificate to non-majors, there was a huge demand from outside the college, but that became a huge bottleneck because this class almost always fills up with majors during fall and spring. So this summer class is an opportunity for non-majors to get in.”

Kevin Harbison has taught audio recording in the summer for the better part of a decade, and he says while the course content has evolved with the times, the real evolution has been in the knowledge of the students he teaches.

“When we started, there might have been a few people familiar with GarageBand or Logic Pro or those workstations, but there would also be people who had never touched a computer for anything except Word. Now it’s not unusual for one or two people to have their own recording software and be well versed in systems like Ableton.”

Harbison, who has done audio engineering and recording in concert halls for most of his career, says he learns something new every year from his Summer Session students, who are more likely to have created recordings in home studios than Grusin Music Hall-like venues. That’s why he formats this summer course a little differently.

“My background is almost exclusively working in concert halls with acoustic instruments, primarily classical. But about halfway into the course, we turn the classroom into a home recording studio for our final projects.

“The approach is totally different. In a concert hall, my job is to capture a recording that is as accurate and realistic as possible. The studio engineer’s job is to create a sound that’s almost the opposite of reality. This is really the only time during the year that I get to do things like mic up a drum set. So it’s fun to try these new things.”

Harbison says while the summer class likely won’t change too much once the College of Music gets its brand new, state-of-the-art recording studio in Fall 2020, he is thrilled for the potential for his students to grow in their skills when the time comes.

“The new control room will be big enough to hold 12 students at a time, so the classes I teach during the academic year will meet in that space. We’ll probably use the new studio for demonstrations during the summer, to show students a well-designed control room.”

For a full list of College of Music Summer Session offerings, visit the CU Boulder Course Catalog.

Summer Session courses