February 15th, 2019
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11/30/-0001 - Spokane Symphony Slates Internet2 Collaboration

In addition to being a beautifully restored Art Deco building, the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox may be one of the most wired buildings in the Terabyte Triangle. Of course, it has the usual telephone, Internet, e-mail connectivity, but it also has six strands of dark fiber, leased from Columbia Fiber Solutions, to connect it to Internet2, the Inland Northwest GigaPOP, VPnet, and on out into the rest of the world. “Spokane has so many visionaries here – ahead of their time – so that the infrastructure is here to move forward,” says Brenda Nienhouse, Spokane Symphony Orchestra’s executive director.

Because of visionaries within the Spokane Symphony Orchestra (SSO), who understand the value of high bandwidth connectivity, the SSO was selected to participate in the New Strategies Lab, a pilot program of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The New Strategies Lab is not a place; rather it is a concept, funded by the Mellon Foundation, for the purpose of helping solve, through innovation, some of the issues and problems that confront symphony orchestras today. The SSO will use their funds to “explore new ways to deliver and to affect education programs and outreach to the whole state,” according to Nienhouse.

One important use of the connectivity will be to broaden the reach of the symphony’s master classes from The Fox to many school districts throughout Washington through the use of Internet2. According to the Internet2 Web site: “Internet2 is a collaborative project by over 120 U.S. research universities, working with partners in industry and government to develop a new family of advanced applications to meet emerging academic requirements in research, teaching, and learning. Internet2 provides members a wide range of reliable services that serve as a platform for the most extreme research, development, and experimentation any community can imagine.” In Spokane, Internet2 is most often accessed through the existing statewide K-12 educational network. The new Inland Northwest GigaPOP is also expected to provide access.

The SSO has brought two people with expertise in Internet2 and its standards to Spokane to help with the process. Within the greater Spokane area, all school districts have a multi-gigabit optical fiber educational metropolitan area network (EMAN), and the schools’ IT people are working with the SSO to test and perfect, so that quality programming can be delivered. “We’ll do a lot of testing to be sure this project is done right,” says Nienhouse.

One important reason for needing direct optical fiber connections is that the most popular Internet2 delivery software is a “bandwidth hog,” according to Ted Brown, SSO Internet services manager. The software, DVTS (Digital Video Transfer System), is now the standard for high band width across Internet2. “This software is new enough for expansion, but has been used sufficiently to be fully tested,” says Brown. “It sends CD-quality audio, and the video is OK too.” DVTS was created as a PhD project and is distributed for free. It can be used for point-to-point and multi-cast communication.

The SSO will begin with master classes and small productions. When they’re sure that the system is working perfectly, they may try bigger productions. Who knows -- maybe someday the SSO will play with another symphony from the stage at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox.

Billie Moreland
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