DePaul University’s School of Music dean
and two faculty members have developed music lessons that are reaching far beyond the
school’s 400 students.
The three have teamed up with an Evanston educational software company to produce Music
Ace 2, the second in a series of nationally popular computer discs that help children and
adults learn about music at home and in schools.
School of Music Dean Donald Casey leads the new product design team for Harmonic Vision of Evanston, which produced
Music Ace 2. The seven-member team includes Judy Bundra, associate dean of the school, and
Michael Smith, music education chair. Released in June, Music Ace 2 targets 5th- through
8th-grade students, teaching advanced musical concepts such as rhythm, melody and harmony
in 24 lessons and games.
Casey also helped develop the original Music Ace, which is the nation’s
top-selling musical education program. Music Ace teaches fundamentals such as note reading
and keyboard basics. Both Music Ace programs are sold online and in computer and music
"Every good teacher laments that there are limits to the number of students they
can reach when there are so many who want to learn," Casey said. "Computer
assisted instruction allows me to expand my educational outreach and positively affect
music learning for students well beyond the walls of our school."
The programs use sounds and animated images, such as a cartoon character named AMaestro Max," to make learning easy and
enjoyable. Though originally intended for children, more than half of Music Ace users are
adults, Casey said.
"Music Ace is an engaging and creative way to learn music fundamentals,"
Bundra said. "I believe it sets the standard for quality music education software and
enhances teaching and learning both at school and at home." Bundra, a resident of
Winnetka, said she’s tested the program with her own children, who enjoyed the
interactive music lessons and games.
"The program teaches children a lot about music and how to create it, but in a
such a fun way that they hardly seem to notice that they're using ‘educational’
software," said Smith, a Northfield resident. "Technology is enabling music
educators to unlock levels of musical experience, such as composing, performing and
analyzing, in ways that were not possible only a few years ago."
Casey, also of Northfield, became involved in Music Ace in 1992, not long after
Harmonic Vision was founded at the Northwestern Research Park. The software was developed
by two former programmers at Bell Labs, Joel May and Phil Rockenbach, who sought
Casey’s help in designing the product because their own knowledge of music education
Casey said additional products in the line are planned for the future, including Music
Ace Jr. for children from kindergarten through second grade and a Music Ace version for
preschoolers. "Music training must start early or potential will be lost," said
Casey, a longtime music educator and a subscriber to the "broad curriculum"
model of learning, which emphasizes how and when people learn best and early learning. A
Music Ace "Explorer" program is also being planned for people who have no music
"We’ve taken the time to produce and refine a strong, well done and
educationally sound product, and we believe it will continue to serve the field of music
education software for many years," Casey said.