Teaching Philosophy

My teaching philosophy for music history courses involves acknowledging the approaches and interests of various disciplines and backgrounds.  Thus, all types of students can benefit from one another’s broader interests instead of merely tolerating one another’s more specific interests.  This approach works not only for music majors otherwise mainly interested in specializations other than music history, but also for other students taking music history electives in the liberal arts, such as music appreciation, the history of jazz, popular music and culture, and the history of film music.

In my teaching, I often use audio-visual materials, including on-screen summaries, web-based course tools, listening examples, and/or video excerpts.  For example, in a lecture-oriented course involving a textbook, I derived a series of on-screen chapter summaries in the form of PowerPoint slides.  I sent each summary to the students by email a day or two ahead of time, so that they could print this off and take notes on it during the relevant lecture.  When I didn’t use a textbook for a lecture-oriented course, I provided a printable, web-based review table for each class meeting. This approach covered the relevant lecture materials (including specific music discussions), selected readings, and/or video excerpts.  It allowed students to study for tests from materials reasonably consistent with their own notes, but it also provided something reasonably comparable to what a textbook would offer.

For certain types of classes (such as seminars and music-major lecture classes), I assemble a course reader from source documents and/or scholarly articles (in printed form, or as PDFs uploaded to a course website).  In seminars, I increase student interest in these materials by having them present specific topics in class (in groups, if the class is fairly large) and by presenting questions intended to open up the students’ understanding and discussion (such as with required, emailed journal-responses).  In addition to playing relevant music tracks and video clips in class (in order to provoke further discussion), at some institutions I have been able to provide my students with complete listening materials, and even complete films, as streaming files on a library website and/or course website.

My preferred type of test question (i.e., for lecture courses) is the “multiple-blank multiple-choice,” in which a listening or non-listening question can incorporate a much broader and more critical range of information than mere memorization and identification.  My midterm and (semi-cumulative) final exams include a combination of multiple-choice and/or short-answer questions with a limited series of one-page essays, with the essay topics chosen by the students from a reasonably broad selection.  My courses and seminars also always include at least one major writing assignment.  This requirement combines student research work on a specific composer or artist’s biographical and artistic context with a related interpretive discussion of one or more relevant individual pieces of music.  In seminars, each student also presents a version of his or her “paper in progress” for the rest of the class.

The courses I have taught covered a wide range of areas in popular music, film music, jazz, classical music, music theory, and so on, including:

  • Non-Major Seminars and Lecture Courses (e.g., Popular Music and Culture, America in the Sixties, The History of Jazz, Film Music from 1954-74, The Music of Film Noir, Understanding Music, and The Fundamentals of Music Theory)
  • Music Major Electives (e.g., Cover Songs & Appropriation and Issues in Popular Music Studies)
  • Music-Major Core Courses (Music Since 1945, Music from 1888-1945, Medieval & Renaissance, Music Theory 3 – Harmony and Form, 1700-1870)
  • Graduate Seminars (Music Theory & Cultural Musicology in the Study of Popular Music and Film Music Case Studies: Genre, Style, Gender, Power)

Student evaluations of my teaching have drawn such comments as:  “knowledgeable and enthusiastic,” “truly cares for the material,” and “well-prepared and fair.”

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