Naxos, Variations hit the right notes for music professor

Tom Tunks
Tom Tunks

Shortly after Tom Tunks returned to teaching in fall 2011, having completed an extended assignment in SMU administration, he developed a new appreciation for the resources and services available to faculty and students through Central University Libraries.

"I've always thought the libraries were good and that library personnel were very helpful, but now with my return to full-time teaching, I find that we're at a completely different level of ability to use resources in class and for assignments," he says. "This opens up huge possibilities and frees me to do things I just couldn't do before."

A Professor of Music Education in Meadows School of the Arts, Tunks served as Associate Provost for Educational Programs from 1998 to 2011. He also acted as Interim Provost in 2006. He joined the SMU faculty in 1980 and has "used the libraries consistently since then, both in teaching and for my own research and publication."

Now that he's back in the classroom, Tunks values the complementary functions of two key resources he utilizes through Hamon Arts Library: the Naxos Music Library, Hamon's most popular audio streaming service, and Variations, a comprehensive music listening and viewing platform.

"I use them both, but for different reasons," he says. "Naxos is a huge library of online music that I can use for my own listening to prepare classes or for in-class presentation. No more going in to check out vinyl records, tapes or CDs. I can also assign listening to small classes or individual students with Naxos. No more having to put things on reserve for them to access one at a time."

While Naxos accommodates a limited number of listeners at the same time, Variations adapts to more operatic figures, like the 120 undergraduates in Tunks' "Music, the Art of Listening" class.

"The excellent staff in the Hamon has been most helpful in loading the music I need into Variations and giving access to that set to everyone on my class list. So if, for example, I want to have all 120 students listen to Respighi's Pines of Rome in preparation for next week's class, I can do it," he explains. "That just wasn't possible before, unless all of them had bought it in advance."

Not all important library resources are digital, he adds. For the graduate research methods and materials class he teaches, Tunks arranges a three-hour session with a reference librarian, who acquaints students with search tools and shows them how to use library resources efficiently.

"We meet in a room with computers in Fondren Library Center, and everyone can try searches at once while the librarian helps and guides," he says. "I learn new things every time the librarian teaches my class."