When distance learning involves overseas students studying music, a Zoom call isn’t quite good enough. So, on Oct. 22, 2020, Cathal Breslin, assistant professor of piano in Arizona State University’s School of Music, Dance and Theatre and a Yamaha Performing Artist, conducted a groundbreaking four-way “remote” piano master class, with participating students located in three Chinese cities — each student more than 6,500 miles away.
Students were introduced to a remarkable application of distance learning, thanks to cutting-edge Yamaha “Remote Lesson” technology and four internet-connected Yamaha Disklavier “reproducing” pianos located on ASU’s Tempe campus and at Yamaha piano dealers in Beijing, Nanjing and Wuhan, China. This marks the first-ever connection of Disklavier pianos in four different cities.
The Yamaha Disklavier, a unique, technologically advanced reproducing piano, enables highly-nuanced performance data – i.e., the actual key strokes and subtle pedal movements made by a performing artist – to be transmitted back and forth between similarly equipped instruments over the internet, with perfectly synchronized video streaming between the locations.
The technology allowed Breslin to teach and evaluate “live” performances by three of his students: Wenyan Han, a first-year doctoral student at ASU, located in Beijing; Ziyi Lyu, a sophomore at ASU, located in Nanjing; and Ruiya Zhong, a freshman at ASU, located in Wuhan — each restricted from returning to ASU’s campus in the United States due to the COVID-19 pandemic.