Bringing Theory into Practice: ECMS launches its first online course this fall

The response of educational institutions to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic has led to a greatly increased demand for online classes. This need coincides with Eastman Community Music School’s launch of an ambitious AP® Music Theory online course, the result of collaboration between  ECMS and Eastman’s Institute for Music Leadership, with grant funding from the University of Rochester’s Educational IT Governance Committee. 

(The process, by the way, predated the COVID outbreak considerably. Discussions of the course began in November 2019, and the University’s grant was received in December of that year.)

According to the Institute for Music Leadership’s project manager Harish Nayak, the course originated in the fall of 2019 with the IML’s desire to revamp its E-theory Live course covering music fundamentals as an AP® Music Theory course for high school students. A successful course would “tap into the pre-college audience in a sustained way” and lead to criteria for developing future online courses.

ECMS associate dean and director Petar Kodzas was also interested in expanding the school’s classes online. A recent Summer@Eastman course dedicated to training AP® Music Theory teachers gave him the idea of offering an ECMS AP® Music Theory course for high school students – which would be the first online course to be offered by ECMS. He also shared the IML’s desire to connect Eastman with pre-college students interested in music, not just in Rochester, but throughout the country.

The course was designed and will be taught by a current PhD student, Stephanie Venturino ’17E and ’19E (MA), who has a long association with Eastman: before entering as a collegiate student, she attended ECMS as a high school student.

Stephanie Venturino ’17E, ’19E (MA), creator and teacher of ECMS’ new AP® MusicTheory Online class

Stephanie has taught traditional courses for ECMS since 2010; and, since 2016, she has offered several hybrid online aural skills classes through the ECMS. She adds, “Interested in learning more about crafting an online environment, I began taking classes at the Warner School while working on my PhD in music theory. I received the Warner School’s Advanced Certificate in Online Teaching this May.”

She adds, “I was heavily involved with the ECMS and knew they were interested in the online market, so I approached Petar about a possible ECMS involvement with the IML’s ALP® Music Theory course — things went from there!”

Once a detailed proposal was submitted to the University’s Office of Educational IT Governance, the project was eligible for a grant which paid for media equipment, course materials, engraving costs, and time and labor. A submission for approval by the College Board followed.

Students from across the country have already signed up. Stephanie expects 12 to 15 students to enroll this fall, and she is excited about the future growth of the program. The only requirement for registration, she says, is that students must be able to read and write musical notation in at least one clef and show basic performing ability on voice or an instrument.

Will Eastman’s online course deliver an educational experience as robust as that of a “live” class? “It will be above and beyond!” says Stephanie. A student who completes the course will receive “a solid foundation in musicianship going forward” – and will fulfillthe requirements of two ECMS courses: Theory and Aural Skills 1; and Aural Skills 2.

Every week, students will watch multi-feed instructional videos, complete online workbook activities, and take formative multimedia quizzes. They will also participate with their peers via gamified discussion boards and video collaboration tools. Students will also attend weekly synchronous review sessions on Zoom, which will be focused on fortifying skills and developing test strategies. (You can read the course description in detail here.)

For Petar Kodzas, this new AP® Music Theory course is also notable as a fruitful “cross-campus collaboration” between Eastman and the University. “In terms of departments, the Community School and the Institute for Music Leadership are about as far apart as you can get at Eastman,” he says. “But we were able to work together to create this course and to have it supported by the University.”

Eastman’s online AP ® Music Theory course will begin on September 9, 2020. For a full description, including costs, materials, schedule and more, please visit: