Partnerships and Innovation

Office of Partnerships and Innovation
Office of Partnerships and Innovation

Music teaching app connects teachers and students from home

Thursday, May 7, 2020

As originally published in the Queen's Gazette 

The Cadenza practice app developed at Queen’s is a growing hit with aspiring musicians in Canada and around the world during the COVID-19 crisis

For the Cadenza app, there has been a 10-fold increase in subscribers as a direct result of people staying at home due to COVID-19. (Supplied photo)

If you’ve been on social media since the COVID-19 crisis began, you’ve no doubt seen people busy making the most of their time at home by trying their hand at skills such as cooking, sewing, painting, and other hobbies.

You can add picking up a musical instrument to the mix. The Cadenza app was developed by Queen’s University researchers in collaboration with professors and developers at Concordia University and community partners and was launched late in 2019. It works by virtually linking a music teacher with a student, or group of students. There's been a 10-fold increase in subscribers as a direct result of people staying at home due to COVID-19.

“We’ve had new users from Italy, Switzerland, and Singapore since the pandemic began,” says Jodie Compeau, Project Manager for the Cadenza Community Project.

The greatest surge of users has come from the United Kingdom, followed by Canada and the United States.

“We work with a group in the UK called The Curious Piano Teachers,” says Compeau. “They advise us and have helped to get the word out by endorsing Cadenza as an effective music teaching platform.”

The web-based app, which represents a great example of research translated to social innovation, received funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), and was supported by the Queen’s Partnerships and Innovation team.

As of April, 250 teachers and 3,300 students have subscribed.

“We have teachers who have dozens of students, and schools have signed on that have lots of students, so the app really is becoming a popular tool,” says Rena Upitis, Professor of Education at Queen’s and principal investigator on the project.

The app was originally developed for students 12 years of age and older, but the creators have found students as young as six are using it.

“Since the pandemic, we’ve also noticed a number of adult learners are wanting to play again,” says Dr. Upitis. She also observed that, “When we first launched Cadenza we imagined it would be a 1:1 private teacher and student ratio. But group lessons are possible now. An instructor with 10 students can create a lesson and send it out to their students or add an attachment or annotate things.”

The app’s creators say one of the most surprising things they’ve experienced since launching the service was the sense of community that has emerged through the service.  

“It is a big adjustment to learn how to teach on a screen instead of face-to face. As a result, everyone supports one another,” says Compeau.

There is a graduating scale of payment, depending on the number of students, for this web-based app.

“We weren’t expecting to be in the black until mid- 2021. Any money we have generated is going back into the app to make it better,” says Dr. Upitis. “We’ve been getting great user feedback, and if we can, we make changes.”

The Cadenza team is setting its sights on breaking into the U.S. market and has just joined forces with SPARK at St. Lawrence College to come up with a marketing strategy.

Anyone can access the app at the Cadenza website.

Tags: