David E. Kirkland Named Director of NYU’s Metro Center

The Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools (Metro Center) at NYU has named David E. Kirkland its new director, effective July 1. Kirkland – a recognized leader in urban education and an associate professor of English education at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development – served as the Metro Center’s deputy director during the 2014-2015 school year.

“We’re extremely fortunate to have David Kirkland leading the Metro Center, given his expertise in teaching and learning in urban settings and his passion for ensuring equity and opportunity in education,” said Dominic Brewer, Gale and Ira Drukier Dean of the Steinhardt School.

As a researcher and scholar, Kirkland’s work is rooted in equity topics and explores the intersections between language, race, gender, and urban youth culture through the lens of literacy. He has spent the past decade analyzing the culture, language, and texts of groups of urban American youth. His other areas of expertise include urban teacher preparation and urban school improvement.

A prolific writer and presenter, Kirkland has published more than 70 articles, books, and book chapters and has delivered more than 100 presentations about what it takes to transform schools and give all students a quality education. His most recent book, A Search Past Silence: The Literacy of Young Black Men (Teachers College Press, 2013), won the 2014 AESA Critics Choice Award and the 2014 NCTE David H. Russell Award for Distinguished Research in the Teaching of English. Kirkland’s scholarship has been funded by the National Academy of Education, the Spencer Foundation, and the Ford Foundation, among other institutions.

Prior to earning his doctorate and law degrees, Kirkland worked as a classroom teacher and administrator in Michigan.

Speech Research Uses Motion Capture Technology to Shed Light on Speech Disorders in Children

Facial motion capture – the same technology used to develop realistic computer graphics in video games and movies – has been used to identify differences between children with childhood apraxia of speech and those with other types of speech disorders, finds a new Steinhardt study.

“In our study, we see evidence of a movement deficit in children with apraxia of speech, but more importantly, aspects of their speech movements look different from children with other speech disorders,” said study author Maria Grigos, associate professor in the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders at NYU Steinhardt. The study, coauthored by Aviva Moss and Ying Lu of NYU Steinhardt, is published in the August issue of the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research.

Childhood apraxia of speech is a complex speech impairment in which children have difficulty planning and making accurate movements to create speech sounds. Children with apraxia of speech often are delayed in developing speech, have atypical speech patterns, and make slow progress in speech therapy.

Movement tracking technology has emerged as a useful tool in studying motor speech disorders, including apraxia. Tiny reflective markers are placed on the face, and using the motion capture technology, researchers can quantify facial movements by measuring how the lips and jaw move. Beyond simply listening to speech sounds, measuring motor deficits with facial movement tracking adds a layer of understanding to measuring speech sounds.

“This research enables us to look at the movement patterns used to produce a word in relation to the way that word is perceived. Including the perceptual component is key because as clinicians, we rely heavily on the judgments we make when listening to children speak. One of our aims was to determine if we could identify differences in how the lips and jaw move even when speech is perceived to be accurate by the listener,” Grigos said.

Grigos and her colleagues sought to understand if by measuring facial movements, children with apraxia of speech can be distinguished from children with other types of speech impairment. The researchers examined the lip and jaw movement of 33 children, ages three to seven, during speech tasks. Three groups were studied: 11 children with childhood apraxia of speech, 11 children with other speech impairments, and 11 children without speech impairments.

The children were asked to repeat one, two, and three syllable words while the motion capture technology tracked jaw, lower lip, and upper lip movements. The researchers looked at metrics including the timing, speed, and variability of the movement, as well as how far the lips and jaw moved during speech. They only analyzed words that they perceived to be pronounced accurately.

Using the movement tracking technology, the researchers were able to pick up subtle differences that the ear couldn’t hear. The most notable finding was that children with childhood apraxia of speech produced lip and jaw movements that varied more than the other two groups of children.

“Variability can be viewed in two ways: it can indicate that there is flexibility to achieve the speech goal, or it might reflect a lack of control,” Grigos said. “We’re still trying to identify the source of such variability and whether speech movement variability would decrease over the course of intervention involving intense practice.’”

The researchers also found that the timing of the movement was longer in both speech impaired groups, meaning that the two groups took longer to produce words than typically developing children.

Interestingly, when the children were asked to repeat three syllable words, the most difficult of the speech tasks, the two groups with speech impairments handled the words differently in terms of movement duration and variability, with more deficits seen in the apraxia group.

“Children with apraxia don’t improve quickly with treatment. Our findings suggest that the motor deficits seen in children with apraxia may contribute to their slow progress in treatment and difficulty generalizing newly acquired speech skills to untrained tasks,” Grigos said.

The study provides evidence that movement variability – as measured by facial motion capture – distinguishes children with childhood apraxia of speech from children with other speech disorders, and children respond differently to linguistic challenges depending on their speech impairment.

The research was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (R03DC009079).

Sweet Summer School: Chancellor Carmen Fariña Visits Middle School Students Studying Sugar

It tastes great, but is it good for you?

Students from the University Neighborhood Middle School (UNMS) are tackling this question in an elective summer program hosted by the Steinhardt School. The program, developed by teachers at UNMS and administered through a grant to UNMS and NYU’s Metro Center, helps students to explore their relationship to food through an interdisciplinary unit focused on sugar.

The three-week curriculum includes tasks to help students understand the role sugar plays in our lives and culture, and looks at sugar from historical, political, economic, social, and scientific perspectives.

Today, New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña (Steinhardt ’65) stopped by NYU to see the summer program in action. Students were reading from Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science, and discussing it with their teachers.

When asked by Chancellor Fariña what they’ve learned this summer, students shared that sugar is in almost all foods, and it also has historical ties to war and slavery.

“Looking at what we eat is important,” Fariña told the students. “By the time you finish this whole investigation on sugar, try to figure out what are you going to do differently — I know at my dining room table, we don’t serve soda.”

The summer program also involved a trip to a supermarket for data collection how much sugar is actually in different foods, as well as lessons on the digestive system and the science of sugar.

“Our young learners will recognize that all the subjects work together in creating understanding and meaning, as they become informed consumers who can weigh the impact of their decisions on health, society, and the environment,” Laura Peynado, principal of UNMS, wrote in the description of the program.

Next summer’s program will focus on another controversial yet critical element found in nearly all of our food: salt.

Photos: Debra Weinstein

Media Scholar, Natasha Dow Schüll, Joins Department of Media, Culture, and Communication

Cultural anthropologist Natasha Dow Schüll has joined Steinhardt’s Department of Media, Culture, and Communication as an associate professor.

Schüll’s first book, Addiction By Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas (Princeton University Press 2012), explored the relationship between technology, design, and addiction, drawing on research among compulsive gamblers and slot machine designers.

Alexis Madrigal, senior tech editor for The Atlantic, called  Addiction By Design “one of the foundational artifacts for understanding the digital age—a lever, perhaps, to pry ourselves from the grasp of the coercive loops that now surround us.”

The proliferation of digital self-tracking and self-modifying technologies is the subject of Schüll’s forthcoming book, Keeping Track: Personal Informatics, Self-Regulation, and the Data-Driven Life (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2016).

Schüll charts the rise of technological introspection, a practice embraced by the Quantified Self movement (“self-knowledge through numbers”) popularized by software developers and quantrepreneurs eager to capitalize on the trend.

Schüll received her BA, MA, and PhD in Sociocultural Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley.  She is the recipient of fellowships from the National Science Foundation, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation.


Steinhardt Researchers Awarded $1 Million to Study Educational Videos

The Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education, has awarded the Steinhardt School more than $1 million to study educational videos that aim to help young children with vocabulary development.

Research shows that children’s vocabulary knowledge is directly related to their reading achievement and literacy skills. In fact, the size of a child’s vocabulary at the end of first grade is a significant predictor of high school literacy skills.

While some children begin school with sizable vocabularies, others have much more limited knowledge. Differences in vocabulary are particularly profound among children from different socioeconomic groups.

“These differences in vocabulary persist throughout schooling, are linked to later reading skills, and may contribute to the ever-widening achievement gap,” said Susan B. Neuman, chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning at NYU Steinhardt and the study’s principal investigator.

Educational videos may help low-income preschoolers learn new vocabulary, but researchers stress that media must be evaluated to ensure that programs actually foster literacy development in children. In a pilot study, Neuman and her colleagues analyzed popular educational DVDs for preschoolers that included both educational and entertaining content. They found that the prevalence of vocabulary teaching moments varied considerably across the DVDs, suggesting that educational videos could vary in their ability to teach vocabulary.

“Despite their potential, not all educational media are created equal,” Neuman said.

The three-year IES grant, which begins Sept. 1, 2015, will fund several studies exploring how preschoolers’ vocabulary development and language comprehension are influenced by educational videos. The studies will take place in preschools in low-income Brooklyn neighborhoods.

The researchers will use a variety of methods, including eye-tracking technology to examine children’s visual attention and viewing behaviors when exposed to educational videos. The studies will define the features of educational media that support vocabulary development and language comprehension, establish how these features influence children’s engagement with educational media, and determine the extent to which manipulating these features supports vocabulary development and comprehension skills.

“By identifying the factors associated with educational media and determining the influence of these factors on children’s vocabulary and learning outcomes, our research will serve as an important step for interventions aimed at closing the achievement gap,” said Neuman.

Peter Halpin, assistant professor of applied statistics at NYU Steinhardt, will serve as co-investigator, along with collaborators from West Texas A&M University.

Image: © Fuse/thinkstock

Peace Corps and NYU Partner on New Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program

The Peace Corps and New York University announced the launch of a new Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program that will provide graduate school scholarships to returned Peace Corps volunteers. This partnership marks the largest Fellows program between the Peace Corps and a university, with seven NYU schools and centers, including the Steinhardt School, accepting returned volunteers into their graduate programs. All program Fellows will complete internships in underserved American communities while they complete their studies, allowing them to bring home and expand upon the skills they learned as volunteers.

“We are delighted to partner with New York University to support our returned volunteersas they pursue higher education and continue their commitment to service,” Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said. “Communities are moved forward by the selflessness of volunteers, and returned Peace Corps volunteers have unique skills and experiences to offer their local communities.”

Fellows selected for the program will receive at least 50 percent of tuition in financial benefits at seven participating NYU graduate schools and centers with no application fee. In addition to Steinhardt, these schools and centers include the Center for Urban Science and Progress, Gallatin School of Individualized Study, College of Global Public Health, Wagner School of Public Service, School of Professional Studies, and Silver School of Social Work. All Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Science (MS) degrees at the Steinhardt School are eligible for the fellowship.

“As a university whose motto is ‘A Private University in the Public Service,’ we’re excited to partner with the Peace Corps Coverdell Fellowship and support returned volunteers in their continued leadership development and service on campus and throughout the city,” said Melody Barnes, vice provost for global student leadership initiatives at NYU.

Through their internships, Coverdell Fellows apply what they learn in the classroom to a professional setting. They not only gain valuable, hands-on experience that makes them more competitive in today’s job market, but they also further the Peace Corps mission. By sharing their global perspective with the communities they serve, Fellows help fulfill Peace Corps’ Third Goal commitment to strengthen Americans’ understanding of the world and its people.

“We are extremely excited about the NYU Fellows program and partnership with the Peace Corps. Providing an opportunity for talented Peace Corps alumni to continue their education through enrollment in NYU graduate programs will enable former volunteers to gain additional knowledge and skills that will be critical to them and have a major impact in the global community,” said Trudy Steinfeld, assistant vice president of student affairs and executive director of NYU’s Wasserman Center for Career Development.

Internships in underserved communities are an integral part of each Fellow’s degree. By sharing their Peace Corps experience and global perspective with the communities they serve here in the United States, returned volunteers are supporting the Peace Corps’ Third Goal commitment to strengthen Americans’ understanding of the world and its people. Professional placements at non-profits and government organizations also help students further develop their skills. Participating NYU Coverdell Fellows may complete internships at organizations such as University Settlement, ECPAT/USA and AIR Harlem.

The Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program began in 1985 at Columbia’s Teachers College, and now includes more than 90 university partners across the country, from the District of Columbia to Hawaii to Alaska. The program is specifically reserved for students who have already completed their Peace Corps service abroad. Since the inception of the program, more than 4,500 returned volunteers have participated and made a difference across the country. For more information, visit www.peacecorps.gov/fellows.

The first class of approximately 17 to 20 NYU Coverdell Fellows will enroll beginning in the fall of 2016. To learn more about the Coverdell Fellows Program at NYU, contact PeaceCorpsadmissions-group@nyu.edu.

Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0 Think Tank Comes to NYU to Discuss Disability-Inclusive Diversity in Media

Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0 – a think tank dedicated to achieving disability-inclusive diversity in media, entertainment, and digital platforms – will gather at New York University on Monday, July 13 from 1 to 7 p.m., in honor of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The summit aims to develop strategies for improving disability portrayals on large, small, and personal screens, enhancing access to digital media, and increasing employment of people with disabilities in front of the camera and behind the scenes.

“As we recognize the historic importance of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the progress it has spurred in the past 25 years, we also need to recognize the challenges that remain for people with disabilities,” said Dominic Brewer, Gale and Ira Drukier Dean of NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. “The Steinhardt School is pleased to host Monday’s summit to explore new ideas and solutions that increase opportunity for people with disabilities.”

The think tank, produced by EIN SOF Communications and The Loreen Arbus Foundation, will explore leading-edge accessible technology, authentic disability narratives, and best practices in advertising, television, film, and other media. Speakers at the July 13 opening session include:

  • Vinton G. Cerf, vice president and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google, who is recognized as one of the two “fathers of the Internet”
  • NYU professors Anita Perr and R. Luke DuBois of the NYU Ability Lab, an interdisciplinary research space dedicated to the development of adaptive and assistive technologies

Breakout sessions will focus on accessible hardware and software, as well as disability-inclusive diversity in Internet programming, social media, and gaming.

“Inequality and discrimination still exist in many of our circles, even in 2015. In so many ways we are very advanced, but in our treatment of fellow humans, we can do so much better,” said Perr, clinical associate professor of occupational therapy at NYU Steinhardt.

“The entertainment industry has the ability to help our society ‘normalize’ the differences among people, although people with disabilities are sadly underrepresented in all aspects of entertainment,” she added. “Involvement of people with various abilities and disabilities both in front of and behind the camera needs to be stepped up so that it matches our overall population. This think tank is a great opportunity for those with the ability to make changes to learn about and talk about participation by people with disabilities.”

Reporters are invited to attend the opening session (registration at 12:30 p.m.; speakers from 1 to 2:30 p.m.) at the NYU Global Center for Academic and Spiritual Life, located at 238 Thompson Street, between Washington Square South and W. 3rd Street. The opening session will also be streamed on the NYU Ability Lab’s website. Breakout sessions are closed events. Reporters interested in attending must RSVP to Rachel Harrison, NYU Office of Public Affairs, at 212-998-6797 or rachel.harrison@nyu.edu.

Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0 will continue at CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice on Tuesday, July 14 with speakers including Victor Calise, commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, and Cynthia López, commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. The two days of conversation, which are part of the official New York City ADA 25th anniversary celebration, will frame two “call-to-action” summits this fall on disability portrayal and employment in the media industry: October 1 in New York City and October 21 at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills.


Education and Mortality Study Finds Association Between High School and College Education and Life Expectancy

A new study by researchers at the University of Colorado Denver, New York University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill estimates the number of deaths that can be linked to differences in education, and finds that variation in the risk of death across education levels has widened considerably.

The findings, published July 8 in the journal PLOS ONE, suggest that lacking education may be as deadly as being a current rather than former smoker.

“In public health policy, we often focus on changing health behaviors such as diet, smoking, and drinking,” said Virginia Chang, associate professor of public health at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and College of Global Public Health, and associate professor of population health at NYU School of Medicine. “Education – which is a more fundamental, upstream driver of health behaviors and disparities – should also be a key element of U.S. health policy.”

More than 10 percent of U.S. adults ages 25 to 34 do not have a high school degree, while more than a quarter have some college but no bachelor’s degree. Yet studies show that a higher level of education is a strong predictor of longevity due to many factors, including higher income and social status, healthier behaviors, and improved social and psychological well being. Evidence from studies including natural experiments consistently show a strong association between education level and mortality and suggest that a substantial part of the association between education and mortality is causal.

Using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Interview Survey, the study team looked at data on more than a million people from 1986 to 2006 to estimate the number of deaths that could be attributed to low levels of education. Estimates of attributable mortality indicate the number of lives that could be potentially saved if adults had a higher level of education. They studied people born in 1925, 1935, and 1945 to understand how education levels affected mortality over time, and noted the causes of death, including cardiovascular disease and cancer.

The researchers estimated the number of deaths in the 2010 U.S. population for two scenarios with relevance for policy: having less than a high school degree, and having some college but not a bachelor’s degree. Maximizing high school graduations rates and the completion of college among those who have already entered are viable policy targets.

They found that 145,243 deaths could be saved in the 2010 population if adults who had not completed high school went on to earn a GED or high school degree, which is comparable to the estimated number of deaths that could be averted if all current smokers had the mortality rates of former smokers. In addition, 110,068 deaths could be saved if adults who had some college went on to complete their bachelor’s degree.

The disparities in mortality across different levels of education widened substantially over time. For example, mortality rates fell modestly among those with high school degrees, but mortality rates fell much more rapidly among those with college degrees. As a result, encouraging high school completion among adults who have not finished high school could save twice as many lives among those born in 1945 as compared to those born in 1925.

Deaths from cardiovascular disease played a greater role than deaths from cancer in these growing gaps in mortality and improvements in survival for well-educated people, likely due to advances in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease among those with more education.

“Our results suggest that policies and interventions that improve educational attainment could substantially improve survival in the U.S. population, especially given widening educational disparities,” said Patrick Krueger, assistant professor in the Department of Health & Behavioral Sciences at the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus and the Institute of Behavioral Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder. “Unless these trends change, the mortality attributable to low education will continue to increase in the future.”

Healthy People 2020 – an initiative to improve Americans’ health decade by decade – set goals for increasing the proportion of students completing high school by 2020. The researchers said that based on their findings, meeting these goals could have a substantial impact on future survival patterns.

“Broadly, life expectancy is increasing, but those with more education are reaping most of the benefits,” Chang said. “In addition to education policy’s obvious relevance for improving learning and economic opportunities, its benefits to health should also be thought of as a key rationale. The bottom line is paying attention to education has the potential to substantively reduce mortality.”

In addition to Chang and Krueger, study authors include Melanie Tran of the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus and Robert Hummer of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The study was funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R24 HD066613).

Listen to Chang discuss her study on CBS Radio.

Voting Begins on AT&T and NYU’s Connect Ability Technology Competition

AT&T/New York University Connect Ability Challenge Draws 63 Submissions from Developers in 15 Countries

Public Voting opens today for the “Popular Choice” winner of the Connect Ability Challenge, a technology competition sponsored by AT&T and New York University’s ABILITY Lab. In recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities act, the Connect Ability Tech Challenge looks to spur innovation of new technologies for people with disabilities. People can vote on the apps, wearable tech and other solutions that will help people with physical, social, emotional and cognitive disabilities. Sixty-three solutions from 16 states and 15 countries were submitted around the world.

Public Voting is open from July 1-10. People can view all the submissions at http://connectability.challengepost.com/submissions.

“It’s been twenty-five years since the Americans with Disabilities Act passed. We’ve launched this challenge to further true accessibility through innovation,” said Marissa Shorenstein, New York State President of AT&T. “The quantity and quality of submissions we received have been overwhelming. We’re excited to let the public have a voice in identifying what they think are the most meaningful solutions.”

“The recent advances in everyday technologies have opened new pathways to people with disabilities to get what they need in order to participate in the activities they want,” said Anita Perr, Clinical Associate Professor at the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and a founding faculty member of the NYU ABILITY Lab. “The Connect Ability Challenge has the potential to eliminate obstacles for a great many people. It is very exciting to see the thoughtfulness and creativity in the entries to the Challenge. Picking winners is going to be very difficult.”

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Developers designed solutions for people living sensory, mobility, social/emotional or communicative and cognitive disabilities. During the competition, they had the opportunity to interact with four “Exemplars”, people living with the types of disabilities around which they were creating technology solutions for.

Solutions submitted include a variety of communicative and cognitive, sensory, social and emotional, mobility, and policy and societal technology. Among the 63 submissions, over two thirds are app solutions for iOS, Android, and mobile web. The hardware devices are also mostly hardware and app solutions. Over half of the submissions received are newly created tech solutions, coming from 15 countries across the world, two thirds of which are from developers based in 16 states across the United States.

“This challenge has brought global attention to our community. It’s highlighted the progress we’ve made over the past 25 years and the challenges those living with disabilities still face,” said Victor Calise, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. “I’m very impressed with the concepts submitted. I can’t wait to see how they can be put in the hands of those who will most benefit from them.”

“RESNA members have been engaged from the outset of this challenge and we’re impressed by the quantity and quality of projects,“ said Michael Brogioli, Executive Director of the Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA). “This underscores the interest in and need for assistive technology solutions. Now we are eager to hear what the public thinks.”

A panel of experts from the engineering, technology and disability community will also be judging the submissions and helping to identify the winning solutions. The judges are:

  • Marissa Shorenstein – President of AT&T New York
  • Zach Suchin – Co-founder/CEO, Brand Knew
  • Anita Perr – Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Occupational Therapy, NYU and RESNA fellow
  • Jason DaSilva – Challenge Exemplar, Producer/Director of AXS Lab. Jason has multiple sclerosis.
  • Paul Kotler – Challenge Exemplar, Student, Blogger, Lecturer, Advocate. Paul has autism.
  • Gus Chalkias – Challenge Exemplar, Assistive Technology Specialist in Blindness, Career Counselor and College Student. Gus has a visual disability.
    Xian Horn – Challenge Exemplar, Teacher, Speaker, Blogger, Beauty Advocate. Xian has cerebral palsy.
  • Jerry Weisman – Principal, Rehabilitation Technology Services/President Assistive Technology Solutions Inc. and RESNA fellow
  • Aaron W. Bangor – AT&T Lead Accessible Technology Architect
  • Paul Schwartz – Assistive Technology Services Manager, Stout Vocational Rehabilitation Institution (SVR), University of Wisconsin-Stout and RESNA fellow
  • Victor Calise – Commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities

Winners of the AT&T NYU Connect Ability Challenge will be announced July 26, in New York City. Participants are competing for a total of $100,000 in prizes. Follow the latest news on Twitter using the hashtag #ConnectAbility.

*AT&T products and services are provided or offered by subsidiaries and affiliates of AT&T Inc. under the AT&T brand and not by AT&T Inc.


When Students and Teacher Make Music (Podcast) Together: An Interview with Larry Miller

Amid the disruption whiplash that continues to shape the music industry, reliably predicting the “Next Big Thing” has become close to impossible.   The best anybody can do – be they artist or bean counter – is to try to keep his or her head above water.

And yet, people in the any industry can always benefit from some solid business analysis of what’s happening and why.  At least, that’s what Larry Miller, a clinical associate professor at NYU Steinhardt, thought when he launched Musonomics in April 2015.  Produced in partnership with Miller’s students in the music business program where he has taught for three years, Musonomics deals with such trending issues as the state of music retail, how artists create scarcity to drive revenue, and what makes Drake’s most recent album release a “mixtape.”

Miller must be on to something because his inaugural podcasts (of which there are currently three) have attracted more than 75,000 downloads.  Miller discusses why, in the crowded music podcast space, Musonomics has so quickly found its audience.

With so many music podcasts out there, were you surprised that Musonomics was so popular right out of the gate?

I was surprised at how quickly it happened, but I don’t think the field is as crowded as you think.  In fact, that’s the reason why I decided to launch Musonomics, because I didn’t see anything out there that dealt with the business end of music in a tight, disciplined format.   A lot of podcasts tend to involve long, unstructured conversations. What we have gone for was a more journalistic approach that was heavy on information, with knowledgeable and credentialed guests, and that had the highest-quality production values.

Alyse Howard, a recent music business graduate, and Larry Miller, on the set of Musicnomics.

Before becoming a teacher, you had a long, successful career in radio and music.  Did that help you in developing Musonomics?

Yes, to the extent that I understand what attracts an audience.  I started my career in radio very early.  I’ve had a somewhat conspicuous “radio voice” since I was 14 so going into radio broadcasting seemed like a natural choice.  I worked for practically every rock station in Boston and New York, including being one of the founding broadcasters on Z100 in New York, still the most listened to pop station in America.  I ended up at NBC radio and there I made the switch into management.  So it’s been quite a long time since I’ve been on the air.

But most of my ideas for Musonomics came from being a podcast listener.  In particular, I’m a big fan of Studio 360 with Kurt Anderson, and that was the sonic model that I had in my head and wanted to emulate.  There really was nothing in the music space like that, and I thought there was a need for it.   And the numbers we’ve been getting prove we were right.

How do you choose what topics to cover, and how to cover them?

I wanted the podcast to reflect the strengths of the music business program itself and we do this by being both timely and expert.  Teaching and learning about the music business today isn’t an easy thing to do – it’s such a moving target.  In order to do well by our students, we need to continuously update the content of our curriculum so that it’s truly reflective of what’s really happening in the industry.   But just as important is that our students receive sophisticated music training, and learn about business practices through courses we offer in conjunction with NYU Stern.

Similarly, with the podcast, we were determined to tackle the most pressing and immediate issues facing the music industry, but we are committed to addressing them in a meaningful way – conducting thorough research, interviewing the foremost experts, and reporting from the field.  This way, we’re respectful of our listeners’ time because they can be confident that they’ll gain real knowledge by tuning in.

How do the students get involved?

I mentioned it in class and they put themselves forward, and I have to say I’ve been fortunate to attract an incredibly talented and skilled group.  We do have a couple of employees working professionally on the podcast – Sam Behrens who graduated from the NYU’s journalism program last year.  But we also have current students doing the reporting and our technical producer Travis Fodor, who is really outstanding, is a rising senior in Steinhardt’s music technology program.

To what extent do the students influence the character of the podcast?  And what do you think they get out of it educationally?

They influence it a great deal.   Granted, the structure is set, but they’ve affected the tone greatly by selecting the music, and they also bring a different sensibility to the subject.

Older people have seen the industry grow and then shrink, in terms of revenue, profitability, number of employees, or primacy of cultural import.  The students are unburdened by that baggage.  They aspire to create a new industry and start new businesses and I guarantee you many of them will go on to have great careers of a type that simply didn’t exist five years ago.  If we’re doing our job well, we’re giving them the tools to realize that ambition.

– Interview by Shonna Keogan