NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Each year Stephen F. Austin State University spotlights some of the brightest and most innovative projects occurring on campus. It's called the Bright Ideas Conference.
This year over 100 research, scholarship studies and artistry were on display. All of them were significant, but the work of Dr. Mario Ajero, an assistant piano professor, stole the show.
The sound of his piano echoed through the grand ballroom. Strangely, he wasn't always the one playing. Spectators were intrigued how the keys were moving, but Ajero was standing there with his hands in his pockets.
Pretty music, but who is playing it? Students and colleagues of Dr. Ajero actually play his piano from miles away. A professor from Halen University in St. Paul, Minnesota could be seen on a projector screen. A Skype connection enabled Ajero and Dr. Stella Bransburg-Sick to speak to one another. That ability is pretty much old school. What's new is watching her play Ajero's piano.
" Just show us that you can play my piano by just doing some real deliberate key strokes," Ajero asked of Sick. The chords she played on her living room piano also played on the grand piano sitting in Nacogdoches. A player piano of a different kind.
This piano evolution is called the Yamaha Disklavier piano. This virtual piano lesson works, " because the Yamaha Disklavier is not just a fine acoustic instrument, but it's also a digital MIDI instrument (computer) in there that can send digital data over the Internet and then that can allow us to play each other's pianos," explained Ajero.
The result are piano lessons with no geographic boundaries. " I have done some teaching using this system when I have to go away and my students have to stay behind," shared Bransburg-Sick. "I've helped students prepare for very important concerts."
Currently, SFA shares collaborative online lesson exchanges with pianists from Manhattan school of music, UCLA, Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, Canada and Hamline University.
" There are two other modes," Ajero enthusiastically shares with spectators. Ajero demonstrates by playing Revelie. Instead of a piano you hear a trumpet. A wake up call that the piano can simulate other instruments including a harpsichord and guitar.
Ajero may want to play with an orchestra, or better understand how a piece of music will sound with a full orchestra. That too can be simulated.
"Yeah, it's a bright idea for sure," said one spectator. Then bransburg-sick starts playing a fast classical piece. The keys on Ajero's piano move with every note.
With the right connecting there are few limitation. A few more bright ideas will place this ability in people's homes.