Music Technology program thrives amid university enrollment decline

This past Fall semester, the program expanded by 50 percent due to a newly established facility within Presser hall.

The music technology program has seen surges in enrollment and transfers even as university enrollment declines. | FERNANDO GAXIOLA / THE TEMPLE NEWS

David Pasbrig has been teaching music technology classes since 1997, before technology’s role in the music industry became evident through professions like video game and movie scoring.

“The classes were always super popular, they were always full, and people wanted more classes,” said Pasbrig, a music technology professor at Temple. “So I just kept adding courses to the sequence and at some point, I said, ‘We really should have a new technology major.’”

The Boyer College of Music and Dance first debuted the official music technology program for undergraduates in 2017, then graduate students in 2020. The program encompasses a broad spectrum of music technology education, ranging from recording commercial music to learning innovative approaches and adapting to new trends in virtual reality and AI. It also incorporates fields like computer science, film and music education. 

“I chose the degree here because it has the largest catalog of classes we have to take, like audio design for video games to film scoring, and then also on the other side, programming and computer science,” said Colin Smith, a sophomore music technology major. 

The music technology program has maintained a leveled enrollment total in recent years, even as overall university enrollment has declined. Nearly 850 students were enrolled at Boyer during the 2016-17 academic year, while 719 were enrolled for the 2022-23 year.  Enrollment has dropped by almost 22 percent since the COVID-19 pandemic with 30,530 students in Fall 2023, down from 39,088 in 2019.

“We have a large number of international applicants for the master’s program this year, for example, India, Iran, Egypt, China, Japan, Taiwan, so it really is all over the place,” Pasbrig said. “We get some people transferring from other schools, but it’s a pretty rigorous program and the students have just been excellent.”

The undergraduate application requires standard materials like an academic transcript, letter of recommendation and standardized test scores. Prospective music technology students are also required to submit a portfolio of work, a professional résumé and a written statement of goals. 

The program typically has 100-200 applicants each fall and spring, and as little as 20 students have been accepted in the past. The program expanded by 50 percent this past Fall semester after a new facility was established in Presser Hall. 

The new area dedicated to the music technology program features recording studios, practice areas and classrooms. It also helps foster a community for the students enrolled in the program.

“There’s more chance interactions, people hanging outside the recording studio and people bumping into each other when coming in and out of the classroom,” said Adam Vidiksis, a music technology professor. “There’s more of that interaction because the facilities are close to each other.”

The program includes two potential tracks for students, one focusing on computer-science, while the other is more interdisciplinary. Both tracks begin with the same core classes like music theory and music in history, among others. 

The computer-science track then splits to focus on mediums like advanced audio production and computer synthesis. Students in the interdisciplinary track have more options for how they want to engage with different media.  

“The interdisciplinary track allows students to engage with multiple disciplines,” Vidikis said. “Students who want to do music and audio for, say film or games, have some flexibility to learn more about film and games, beyond the sort of music, just purely music components of those which we would teach it within Boyer.”

Tayler Butenschoen initially became interested in the major when she was applying to colleges her senior year of high school. She had been in a band in high school and always knew she wanted to be involved in music. 

Butenschoen didn’t have a portfolio to submit for the music tech program, so she became a music education major instead. However, her time in music education helped her prepare enough material to submit a portfolio to transfer into the music technology program. This spring is her first semester in the program.

“A bunch of people have their own music or are doing their own music actively, mixing other people’s music or working for studios,” said Butenschoen, a sophomore music technology major. “All this crazy stuff and it’s so inspiring to just be surrounded by that and to see all of the cool things that people are doing, it just makes me want to do it even more.”

The program aims to prepare students for diverse career paths, including audio engineering for recording studios and film post-production, composing for various media, creating sound art for museums and performing using new technologies. Some students work on sound for existing media alongside creating their own original work.

“I scored a 10-minute clip of Saving Private Ryan, which is a movie that has [no music], but I got the opportunity to give it my own shot and had a professor help me through that whole process and now it’s like a solid portfolio piece that I can have out there for the job field,” Smith said. “So every class basically tries to build up your portfolio and your abilities all around the field.”

There are also opportunities for those interested in tool development, utilizing programming to create essential music production tools and audio effects. The interdisciplinary environment allows students to learn from each other while specializing in their chosen career paths.

Students are also required to submit a final project as a culmination of what they’ve learned throughout the program during their final semester.

“Students get a lot of experience recording working in the studios here or recording classical, jazz, pop all kinds of stuff,” Vidikis said. “We encourage them to for their final projects, make use of the recording studio and really just involve themselves in all the things that we have to offer because it is so much fun and they have a great time.”

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