Meet Product Manager Heath Mathews

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Back in December, CEO Gear Fisher introduced himself and the new MakeMusic leadership team on this blog. Today it’s my pleasure to announce another vital member of the team, our new SmartMusic Product Manager, Heath Mathews.

In addition to his new role at MakeMusic, Heath is also an active composer, currently completing two commissions from arts organizations and working on a recording project.

While Heath and I have worked together at MakeMusic for over seven years, I learned several new things about him in our brief interview: Clearly I need to get out of my chair more often.

What is your musical background?

I grew up in a musical household, where participation in family musical events was expected, and involvement in school music programs was strongly encouraged. Music was always a natural part of our lives.

I played trombone through elementary school and into college. While an undergraduate in college, I changed my primary instrument to guitar and considered a degree in guitar performance, but ultimately completed my undergraduate degree in composition and went on to finish an M.A. and Ph.D. in music composition.

As a graduate student, I taught several music courses, ranging from music theory and ear training to rock history. While I was working on my dissertation, I also began to teach online as an adjunct professor. I have continued to teach online for the past 8 years.

When did you join MakeMusic?

I joined MakeMusic in 2007 as a music production engineer, where I contributed to the development of SmartMusic content. My background in band and composition were very helpful in this role, where I enjoyed exploring the repertoire available for the education market and began to understand the complexities of the publishing world.

What are you working on now at MakeMusic?

We’re working to better integrate the different parts of SmartMusic development and make sure that all aspects of our team are working together as efficiently as possible. I gather feedback from the field and help direct the application development. What helps make this work is that the environment is particularly collaborative. From the veteran teachers on our Education Services team to the brilliant young developers on our engineering team, we all have the same goals in mind and are working in the same direction.

What personal experiences do you bring to SmartMusic development?

Being actively involved in online teaching helps me to see where LMS (learning management system) development is headed and how technology is being implemented to assist educators. Setting up my own classes and assignments in other systems helps to inform decisions we make in our development process. Additionally, the daily running of a class helps to identify specific problem points for educators, such as forgotten passwords or the length of time required to set up an assignment.

Similarly, keeping active as a musician is an important part of working on an application like SmartMusic. My compositions continue to be performed by a wide range of musicians from a variety of backgrounds (classical, jazz, pop, etc.). Working with diverse groups of musicians helps to identify different learning and performance strategies. These strategies, in turn, help to shape a range of pedagogical approaches in SmartMusic.

Another personal experience I draw on is seeing SmartMusic in action at home. My children take private music lessons and participate in school music programs, and SmartMusic is part of how they practice at home. Seeing the assignment loop from this perspective is helpful in the identification of issues that arise for students and parents in the home.

What is your vision for the future of SmartMusic?

One of the near-term goals for SmartMusic is to remove points of friction for educators. As an educator, I see the value in technology as an important tool, but I can also see how technology can sometimes get in the way. Part of my vision for SmartMusic is for the application to be more user-friendly while offering the repertoire and content educators need. I would like for SmartMusic to be an essential teaching tool for educators that never gets in the way.

Have any questions for Heath? Please share them with us by clicking on “Comments” below.

Want to join Heath and I at MakeMusic? Check out our Careers Page.

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