Interview with Sebastian Riegelbauer, the founder of SIRIUS

4 questions to the founder of SIRIUS. Sebastian Riegelbauer's background, motivation and ambition for music education.
4 questions to the founder of SIRIUS. Sebastian Riegelbauer's background, motivation and ambition for music education.

Sebastian Riegelbauer, founder of Sirius Music Communications is a true Berlin native and comes from a very (!) musical family. Since both his parents are professional musicians. Thus, music has always played a prominent role. Nevertheless, he decided to take the tech path and studied AI and Robotics in Munich, Rome and Istanbul. When the question “How to teach music online?” came up at the beginning of the pandemic — he, as the well made software developer and music lover was able to answer it with a smart application: with SIRIUS 🤩.

At the initiative of the Karajan Academy of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Sebastian developed a peer-to-peer solution that transmits the sound unfiltered. In countless test sessions, together with the musicians at the Academy Sebastian came up with a brilliant solution.

Furthermore, the peer-to-peer-solution also guarantees the highest level of data protection. This way, the academics were able to continue to be taught by their instructors in Berlin. — in their countries of origin or simply at home.
The local Tagesspiegel reported on the musical novum.

Within no time, SIRIUS was the talk of music-town Berlin. The demand was immense — and Sebastian founded the startup SIRIUS Music Communications GmbH.

Why can’t online music classes just happen via Zoom or Teams?

Sebastian Riegelbauer: “Sirius focuses on the sound quality of musical instruments and vocals. What Sirius delivers is the sound quality that professional musicians need. Technically, this means, for example, that the sound is prioritized over the video data. So that the sound picked up by the microphone is transported as true to the original as possible. Since conventional systems such as Zoom, Webex or Microsoft Teams are optimized for business meetings they use audio filters in order to emphasize on speech.

However, this type of filtering does not work for music. By filtering out different frequencies, many musical sounds are not transmitted and are therefore not audible to the other participant. For example, most video conferencing systems classify the low bass tones of a double bass as noise and do not transmit them. With Sirius, that doesn’t happen because all frequencies are transmitted, equally.”

Renowned orchestras and world-renowned institutions rely on Sirius – for example, the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra Academy, the Karajan Academy of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, IDAGO, the University of Music and Theatre in Munich, and the musicians at the Conservatoire de Montreal in Canada. What feedback do you get from the artists?

Sebastian Riegelbauer: “Jocelyn B. Smith is an extremely musically versatile international singer. She told me that she can convey the artistic depth of her voice and work online with Sirius, only.

Joel Quarrington, the Canadian bassist, who plays a very special double bass by Maggini from 1660, performs with international orchestras such as the London Symphony Orchestra. He describes Sirius in a positive sense as a real “game changer” for his masterclasses.

For our national and international high-end customers such as the academies, universities or orchestras, the unrestricted transmission of the sound to convey the finest nuances in the playing of the instrument is of utmost importance. In the very prestigious masterclasses, it is of course necessary to hear every detail. This is another area where we’ve received great feedback from all over the world.”

What makes the SIRIUS sound quality so special? What are the differences between the requirements of professionals and Sirius in private lessons or at music school?

Sebastian Riegelbauer: “Sound quality is always the highest priority, for all our customers. But for the lessons of private teachers or at music schools, 2-3 other requirements play an important role:

First, our customers are happy about our musicians-tools. We offer an integrated metronome for working on rhythm and tempo and a tuner for intonation exercises and tuning the instrument. In addition, teacher and student can exchange files via a chat function. It is also important to note that in the Sirius room it is very easy to share the screen. Also, we are developing collaborative tools such as an interactive whiteboard to work on sheet music with students and an audio player to play practice tracks and play-alongs.

On the other hand, data protection is a key issue — especially for all institutions and parents of students.

The peer-to-peer technology we have developed for SIRIUS does not require an intermediate server for the transmission of audio and video data. Thus, no data of the music lesson is stored. It was very important to us from the beginning that Sirius offers the highest possible data protection. We wanted it to go beyond the generally applicable Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).”

What are the next steps and plans for the future of Sirius?

Sebastian Riegelbauer: “We plan to integrate AI-supported services that can be used, for automated listening to the music being played, for example. This way, indications about tempo or intonation can be given by the system. In doing so, we want to consider the fantastic possibilities of machine learning and immersive technologies. Currently, there is a lot of discussion about how the metaverse, i.e. the virtual world, can and should merge with the physical world. These are prominent questions to us.

Clearly, augmented and virtual reality, but also gamification, can be used to convey learning content in a very vivid and tangible way.
Even though it is still hard to say which trends will prevail in this area, we at SIRIUS are exploring these new worlds and ideas.

Our goal is to make music more accessible to as many people as possible.

We also observe that there is a great interest in online music lessons. But it’s not being put into practice, yet. Due to the infrastructure in Germany, which is simply not developed, yet in some regions — the openness towards online teaching hasn’t really been put into action.
However, this hurdle will be taken soon. Again and again, we hear that many people would like to make music, but can’t find access to music lessons.

Since our community has grown so rapidly we are in contact with so many highly motivated and inspiring teachers — together with them we would like to tackle these infrastructural barriers.”

“Wouldn’t it just be great if almost everyone could enjoy a musical education?”

Sebastian Riegelbauer.

Find out more about SIRIUS’ early adopters and supporters

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