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Video Lessons Connect Students With Professional Musicians

A 2-year-old online project is connecting dozens of rural bands and orchestras with Minnesota's oldest music school.

The program connects professional musicians from the nonprofit MacPhail Center for Music to rural classrooms via real-time video instruction.

Minnesota officials describe the program as the first of its kind. Although some of the nation's premiere music schools have used this kind of technology, it typically hasn't been available to low-income students in small-town school bands, according to a recent story in the Star Tribune.

This is another example of rural schools using technology to give its students access to opportunities that otherwise wouldn't be available. Although many rural communities lack sufficient broadband, those that have strong Internet connections are using them in creative ways, such as providing coaching to teachers or offering online college classes to high school students.

The Minnesota project started in 2011 with one school, and it since has expanded to 17 districts and 1,500 students.

It's a potentially powerful resource for rural teachers and schools with limited resources; one music teacher might be responsible for hundreds of elementary through high school students. Teachers say this project makes them feel as if they have more help, and that it gives students access to professionals who only would be accessible to those who live in a city.

The MacPhail Center has been able to offer the program free to schools through grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board's Legacy, the National Endowment for the Arts and foundation grants.

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