Conference Abstracts

Pedagogy into Practice 2019—ABSTRACTS


What Happens When Music Theory Pedagogy is Interleaved?

Michael Callahan, Michigan State University


One presenter at the 2017 PiP conference in Tennessee used research from the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (e.g., Rohrer and Taylor, Roediger and Karpicke) to argue that music theory ought to be taught not in the blocked manner in which it is often done—with one topic or skill introduced, practiced, and assessed at a time—but instead in an interleaved fashion—with multiple related topics introduced simultaneously or in close succession early in the course, practiced together in class and on mixed assignments, and revisited multiple times. In short, the intuitive advantages of blocking (e.g., clarity, scaffolded practice) have been shown, counterintuitively, to be outweighed by the positive effects of interleaving on long-term retention; and not despite the more effortful, struggle-inducing nature of interleaved pedagogy, but precisely because of these so-called “desirable difficulties.”

I follow up on that 2017 presentation by reporting in detail on the success of interleaved course redesigns that I have implemented in the two years since. After a very brief summary of the relevant research, I share the results of a formal impact study conducted in my undergraduate core music theory course in fall 2017. I conducted both qualitative and quantitative measures of students’ self-reported learning, actual retention, and mindset. In short, a reconsideration of when students learned the material significantly impacted not just how well they learned it, but indeed what they learned. Then, reflecting on these results, I report on slight changes that I made to the course design for the fall 2018 offering and share the effects that they had. And finally, using a different course of mine (a graduate counterpoint workshop) as a sample, I generalize the application of interleaving to music theory pedagogy and offer attendees a battle-tested process for incorporating this high-impact procedure into redesigns of their own courses.



“Ever wonder what makes a Bruno Mars song sound like Bruno Mars?” Using Databases, Computer Science, and Computational Thinking as Tools for Teaching Students to Think About the Way That They Think

Jennifer Shafer, University of Delaware


The music fundamentals course described here features a unique design component: It is a music course that is not—fundamentally—about music. Instead, it uses music as a tool to teach computational thinking skills. This course is part of a campus-wide initiative (supported by an NSF grant) to infuse computational thinking across the curriculum, motivated by growing interest around computational thinking and its widely acknowledged value.

The non-major course assumes no prior knowledge of computer science or music; thus, we first study fundamental principles of pitch, rhythm, meter, and harmony through the lens of four computational thinking principles. Students then gradually construct their own song modeled on an artist of their choice, considering necessary data at each stage and methods to obtain and manipulate it. Data is extracted from their corpus using algorithms constructed by a computer science TA; students then individually modify the computer-generated “music” and make subjective alterations to approximate their artist’s style. They gradually gain confidence in making aesthetically-based decisions and value judgments about the algorithmic design and computer results. Students also aurally analyze formal structures, turn text into music, and learn basic DAW skills.

Student response to the content and projects is intensely enthusiastic; reflections indicate that although the projects focused on composition, students did absorb the infused computational thinking principles. Students explain possible applications to other fields, and they perceive these modes of thinking and creating as highly relevant. Most importantly, students learn principles of form, phrase structure, harmony, rhythm, and melody in a way that is engaging for the students, aurally motivated, and more in-depth than a “standard” fundamentals course.



Incorporating Public Music Theory into the Undergraduate Core: Rethinking the Final Analytical Paper

Aaron Grant, Missouri Western State University


Helping students make connections between your course, your discipline, and the world around them boosts intrinsic motivation, particularly if class activities ask students to extend their work into the public sphere (Lang 2016, 429–430). Having students engage in public music theory (Jenkins 2017) can address this issue, but finding appropriate activities within the undergraduate core can be challenging given the jargon-heavy nature of music theory.

I therefore advocate for replacing the traditional final analytical paper—typically assigned at the end of the tonal theory sequence—with a project aimed at a general audience. In other words, rather than asking students to write analysis papers, I have begun having students create YouTube videos, podcasts, or newspaper articles aimed at the general public that either analyze a piece of music or teach concepts we have learned in class. This project requires students to synthesize and apply their knowledge similarly to an academic paper, but it asks them to do so in a way that reflects how they will most likely use theory in their personal and professional lives. Because students are allowed to constructively connect theory to their everyday lives, I have found that they approach the project with exceptional enthusiasm and creativity.

Translating theoretical concepts and terms into language comprehensible to the public, however, is challenging for students. Consequently, this presentation begins by outlining the details of this assignment and discussing how to break the project down into smaller tasks that guide students through that process. I then summarize the various benefits of this project and demonstrate those benefits by playing clips of student projects. I conclude with ideas for strategically scaffolded smaller assignments that teachers can assign prior to this final project that would allow students to constantly be connecting music theory to the outside world.



PANEL— From Core to Cores: Curricular Reform Toward Degree- and Student-Specific Theory Coursework

Greg McCandless, Jennifer Snodgrass, Andrew Hannon—Appalachian State University


This panel provides the philosophical origins and design details of the new theory curriculum to be implemented at Appalachian State University during the 2019–2020 academic year. The goal of this reform has been to implement a flexible theory program that will continue to provide students with a strong foundation of common practice harmony and musical form while increasing student choice, stylistic integration, and direct applicability to future professions. Moving from “the theory core” to several related “theory cores,” this revision involves a smaller shared core across all degrees and a larger pool of “required electives,” which provides students with more opportunities to explore music-analytic approaches that are discipline specific.

The first presenter begins by discussing the philosophical motivations for the curricular changes, which were inspired by published scholarship, survey results from questionnaires given to hundreds of faculty around the country as well as others given to our institution’s faculty and alumni, and two recent CMS Summits on 21st Century Music School Design. The second presenter then details the variety of theory cores for several degrees within our school, highlighting clusters of commonalities while explaining each degree’s specific goals and possible theory “pathways.” Afterward, the third presenter provides a critical analysis of the curricular revision, describing benefits for students and faculty in addition to logistical challenges, potential content and outcome issues, and the assessment model being used to identify and address such issues.  The panel concludes by examining the ways that this reimagined theory curriculum might be successfully adapted by other universities in different educational contexts.



WORKSHOP— Tools for Creating a More Inclusive Classroom: Incorporating Music by Women

Elizabeth West Marvin, Molly Murdock—Eastman School of Music

Jane Piper Clendinning, Florida State University


Even though roughly half of the students in our music theory classrooms identify as female, most theory curricula focus on music disproportionately composed by males. While there are many historical and societal factors that contribute to this predominantly male canon of works, the advent of public-domain scores freely available on the web (together with dedicated music theorists and musicologists committed to gender equity) provides an opportunity for teachers to incorporate many more compositions by women for study. As one of the commonly cited reasons for not incorporating music by female composers is lack of teacher familiarity with suitable high-quality compositions, this workshop will: (1) demonstrate techniques for locating online resources, (2) introduce participants to five focus pieces for analysis through listening, (3) divide participants into small “working groups” for collaborative analysis of the focus pieces, and (4) share the results of these working groups to all participants via links to a Google docs resource and possibly scanned analytical images for use preparing future classes. Workshop leaders will circulate among groups to facilitate analysis and the compilation of a list of harmonic and formal devices. By the end of the workshop, participants will have a list of topics for which the five focus pieces may serve as examples, as well as links to the workshop scores and analyses.


Websites for demonstration:




Focus pieces:

•          Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre (1665-1729) – Sonata No. 2 in D Major for Violin and Continuo, Mvt. III, Presto

•          Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel (1805-1847) – “Die Mainacht,” Op. 9, No. 6

•          Louise Farrenc (1804-1875), Trio for Flute, Cello, and Piano, Op. 45, Mvt. 3, Scherzo

•          Amy Beach (1867-1944), Gavotte from Children’s Album, Op. 36, No. 2

•          Florence B. Price (1887-1953), The Goblin and the Mosquito



WORKSHOP— Pay attention to memory: strategies for assisting students with memory deficits

Leigh VanHandel, Michigan State University

Recent research has provided increasing support for the critical role that types of memory—specifically working memory and visuospatial memory—play in education in general, and how these critical mental processes may be implicated specifically in music theory ability (Mammarella et al., 2010; Cole et al 2018; VanHandel, 2012; VanHandel 2019; Rogers et al., 2017).

This presentation will focus on pedagogy research conducted within STEM disciplines to determine the role memory and attention plays in best practices in pedagogy and assessment in those disciplines, and how this research can be transferred to the domain of music theory. For example, students with memory or attention deficits may have difficulty planning, enacting, and maintaining goal-directed actions, and may be unable to determine what information is needed and what is no longer useful (Engle 2018). The presentation will include examples of classroom activities and assessments that may challenge students with memory and attention deficits, and provide practical, concrete suggestions for how those deficits can be minimized in the classroom. It will also provide suggestions for tasks, such as co-thought gesturing (Eielts 2018; Chu and Kita 2016) and visualization (van der Veen 2012), that may help students with deficits to develop their mental representations of music theory in order to help develop problem-solving abilities.



What is going on in someone's head when they do melodic dictation?

David John Baker, Louisiana State University


Teaching melodic dictation involves instructing students on what and where to direct their attention in order to improve their abilities. This process has been formalized by Gary Karpinski into four discrete steps of hearing, memorizing, understanding, and notating, which help students break down the overwhelming amount of mental processes they need to coordinate in order to successfully complete a melodic dictation (Karpinski, 2000). As students’ experience increases, they are able to memorize larger chunks of music and more easily able to dictate music they once found difficult. But what is going on in the student’s minds over the course of aural skills instructions that allows for this growth?

This paper puts forward a computational, cognitive model of melodic dictation with the goal of helping explain how students become better at melodic dictation. The model is based in research from both cognitive psychology and computational musicology and incorporates relevant theoretical aspects such as working memory and the structure of the melody itself that contribute to a student’s performance. In this paper I demonstrate how modeling the cognitive decision process during melodic dictation helps provide a precise framework for pedagogues to understand the inner workings of cognition during melodic dictation and can help inform teaching practice.

Using a cadential passage from Schubert’s Octet in D Major (D. 803), I walk through an iteration of the model and show how the the model’s choices aligns with both intuitions of aural skills pedagogues to establish the model’s verisimilitude. I then argue the model’s implications for teaching melodic dictation and suggest how combining research from music cognition and music theory can help create a more linear path to success amongst students.

Presenting a computational model additionally demonstrates every ontological commitment, thus making it completely vulnerable to criticism allowing it to serve as a point of conversational departure in discussions of best practice for melodic dictation pedagogy. This paper directly addresses the recurring call (Butler, 1997; Klonoski, 2006; Karpinski, 2000) to address the chasm in research between music cognition and music theory pedagogy.


Butler, D. (1997). Why the Gulf between Music Perception Research and Aural Training?. Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, 38-48.

Karpinski, G. S. (2000). Aural skills acquisition: The development of listening, reading, and performing skills in college-level musicians. Oxford University Press.

Klonoski, E. (2006). Improving dictation as an aural-skills instructional tool. Music Educators Journal, 93(1), 54-59.



Hidden Aural Skills: Implicit Learning through Experience

Elizabeth Monzingo, Ohio State University


Melodic dictation involves both the set of cognitive abilities necessary for perceiving, encoding, and recalling musical information as well as the knowledge required for translating what has been heard into written musical language. Recent research has investigated factors contributing to the accurate recall of melodies, including melodic differences and individual differences in listeners’ working memory capacity. However, little has been studied about the influence of listeners’ musical backgrounds on both the cognitive aspects and content knowledge necessary for dictating a melody.

This paper aims to broaden the discussion of melodic dictation pedagogy to include aspects of students’ musical background and experience. I first examine the results of a study which aims to parse an auditory memory task into its acoustic and mental components. This study proposes that 1) the mental representation of an auditory image holds a stronger influence on its eventual successful recall than the image’s acoustic properties, and that 2) the mental representation is bolstered by access to a robust network of information stored in long-term memory. I focus on implications for melodic dictation pedagogy; I propose that students implicitly learn melodic and rhythmic patterns as they train on their primary instruments, and that the benefit of drawing these patterns from their long-term memory during a dictation task varies depending on the applicability to the melody. For example, a student prepared to draw a blues box lick from their memory will not have the same advantage as a student well-versed in eighteenth-century counterpoint. I then examine the results of a study which aims to assess cognitive load capacity in a tonal working memory task. This study asks the question: does the type of instrument presenting the melody impact the listener’s ease of dictating the melody? This paper bridges the gap between experimental investigations and applications in the classroom.



Informal Music Learning in the Aural Skills Classroom

Susan Piagentini, Northwestern University


As we look toward the future of the arts, many schools are revisiting what it is to be a practicing professional musician. While there is no one right answer, it is important that we implement creative ways to help students acquire a foundation of basic skills while being flexible enough to equip them to adapt to a changing profession. One vital approach to addressing this goal, Informal Learning (Green, 2009), embraces the notion that learning  groups can move through a musical task with minimal guidance. The greatest learning comes from the cooperative interaction of the group members in working towards the goal.


The (5) primary characteristics of informal learning according to Green:

1.)        Learning through this method always begins with music students choose for themselves, which they already know and understand.

2.)        The main method of skill-acquisition involves copying recordings by ear.

3.)        It takes place alone or along-side peers through self-directed, peer-directed, and group learning. It involves conscious and unconscious acquisition and exchange of skills with little or no adult supervision.

4.)        Skills and knowledge tend to be assimilated in haphazard, idiosyncratic and holistic ways.

5.)        Involve a deep integration of listening, performing, improvising and composing.


Implementing aspects of this model in the Aural Skills curriculum provides an opportunity to observe our students’ learning process in real-time. Although the end goal may be performance based, the emphasis on shared experience and critical thinking encourages the practice of traditional concepts and skills in 'real-life' situations. While this method provides instructors a window to observe how strategies introduced in the formal classroom play out in real-time, it also invites students to apply their newly formed skills while adapting their approaches to fit the task. This presentation will introduce several project-based tasks, share videos, and address challenges in implementation and formal assessment.



Correcting the Error of Our Ways: Rethinking Error Detection in the Aural Skills Curriculum

Amy Fleming, Edward J. Taylor—Baylor University


While error detection skills have long been regarded as integral to the developing musician (Ottman 1956, Larson 1977, Byo 1993 and 1997, and Karpinski 2000), most of the available ear training resources either omit the topic entirely or include it only in a limited and inconsistent way. Yet the development of such skills has numerous benefits to undergraduate music majors: it has direct relevance to their future careers as teachers and ensemble directors, it cultivates their ability to analyze and audiate musical examples, and it stretches their critical thinking and musical perception in a way that will improve aptitude at both dictating and sight singing.

In order to explore the benefits of error detection, we recently supplemented the established dictation and performance components of sophomore level aural skills courses by systematically integrating exercises in error detection and correction into classroom activities, weekly homework, and tests. Our objectives in developing this thorough and intentional error detection curriculum were to enhance aural perception, to create resources that mirror the types of errors often encountered in dictation in order to improve dictation-taking abilities, and to make explicit the practical connections—too often left implicit—that the usual aural skills activities have to our students’ future careers. The recorded exercises created for this purpose, which are all performed on real instruments of varying timbres, include both music from the literature and newly composed examples; textures ranging from single-line melodies to two- and three-voice counterpoints to four-voice chorales; and errors in the melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic realms.

In this paper, we will discuss the value of teaching students error detection and correction skills, provide examples of the types of exercises we have developed and employed, and report our experiences incorporating intensive and intentional error detection and correction activities into the sophomore aural skills curriculum.



The Case for More Bass in the Aural Skills Curriculum

Elizabeth Sayrs, Ohio University


The ability to hear harmony at both local and formal levels underpins much of how we ask students to understand tonal music in aural skills classes. Yet students struggle, especially hearing bass lines. Gary Karpinski (Aural Skills Acquisition) frames this challenge in terms of focus and attention—once a listener is "capable of focusing attention on bass voices, [he or she] can apply their dictation-taking skills to whatever bass lines they perceive." He adds that "in some senses…bass line dictation is simply another form of melodic dictation."

However, the skills students develop for melodic dictation are not always easily transferrable to bass lines. While bass lines sometimes serve as true melodies, more often they serve functions that are distinct to bass lines, with their own characteristic pitch patterns, large-scale schemata, and durations. Music cognition research demonstrates that knowing what to expect musically is critical for recall and understanding: if bass lines have their own distinct patterns, we cannot assume that the ability to hear bass lines will simply emerge naturally as a by-product of singing melodies and focusing attention. If we want students to hear harmonic progressions and larger scale tonal motion, students should sing, learn, and internalize characteristic bass patterns that are distinct from melodic patterns and recognize the functions of the bass that serve as important markers of harmonic motion. (While some aural skills texts include excellent examples of bass lines as part of two-part exercises, none focus on bass lines qua bass lines.) This presentation summarizes the cognition research to support explicitly incorporating bass lines into aural skills and outlines three distinct roles of the bass for students to become attuned to. It then presents a new open-source anthology of bass lines (many with upper voices), and discusses three ways to use these bass lines pedagogically.



PANEL— Diversifying the Theory Curriculum: How to Open Multiple Pathways through the Theory Core

Andrew Gades, College of Idaho; Megan Lavengood, George Mason University; Crystal Peebles, Ithaca College


The standard undergraduate theory sequence (i.e., four or five courses taken during the first two years of study) leaves little room to add diverse content without either sacrificing important traditional topics or demanding too many credit hours. This panel explores three solutions to this problem by implementing a modular approach to music theory. Not only does a modular approach open the music theory core to diverse repertoires and topics, it sidesteps concerns of adding credit hours to already packed degrees. Representing music programs from a state university, a liberal arts college, and a music conservatory, our panel explores the motivations behind these modular approaches and the challenges in implementing these changes.

A common theme in each of these curricula is the diversification of the student experience in order to meet the needs of a 21st-century musician. Not only does each model engage repertoires beyond the traditional canon (pop, jazz, film music), but students also express thinking in music through diverse modes of discourse, such as exploring intersections with other disciplines, and assessment in these curricula, such as performance quizzes in a music fundamentals course. By allowing students multiple pathways through the theory core, the curriculum becomes student-centered, where students can select music courses that best meet their musical and professional needs.

Topics of discussion in this panel include: how a modular approach allows greater flexibility for faculty, students, and the institution; the paucity of teaching resources for non-standard curricula; learning outcomes and assessment; and examples of syllabi and curricular frameworks. In sharing our experiences, we hope to encourage other institutions to reconceive the curriculum as a process of opening up different pathways, rather than cramming in more topics, through the undergraduate core.



Building a Theory Curriculum without Chorale-Style Writing

Marcelle Pierson, University of Pittsburgh


Four-part chorale-style writing has become so central to music theory pedagogy that it can be difficult to imagine a curriculum without it. A chorale-free curriculum poses a number of challenges, including a dearth of pedagogical support such as textbooks and the absence of a single trajectory or goal. In this paper, I report from my own experiences of running a four-semester curriculum that gives only glancing attention to chorale-style writing and its voice leading rules. I show how I am able to turn these challenges into advantages by developing materials that impart skills applicable across a wide variety of musical activities, from church arrangements to beat making, popular songwriting, and/or classical music performance and composition.

In my curriculum, Theory I acts as a gateway course. It shores up fundamentals like roman numeral analysis and considers the harmonic progressions of classical music, blues, and pop, as well as the harmony-melody relationships therein. The other three courses may be taken in any order and rotated out of the sequence according to instructor and student interests. In the current configuration, one class takes on rhythmic theory in relation to classical, popular, and non-Western musics; another deals with counterpoint and culminates in a brief introduction to Schenkerian theory; the third explores contemporary compositional styles such as minimalism through model composition.

My goal in this paper is to present possibilities for those who wish to decentralize classical music in their own curricula. I argue that the eclecticism embodied by this modular approach is one way to deconstruct the problematic yet pervasive teleology of style that informs mainstream music theory pedagogy at present.



The Theory of Music vs. the Music of Theory

Christopher Doll, Rutgers University


Numerous scholars have advocated the use of popular music in the undergraduate core theory classroom, and textbooks now commonly include pop excerpts exemplifying traditional theoretical concepts. By contrast, this paper begins from the premise that the subject matter of these courses ("the theory of music") is inextricably linked to the repertory of the Western classical canon, and once the repertory studied in these courses ("the music of theory") is expanded to include new ones (e.g., pop), then so too should the theory itself that we teach be changed. Focusing on the central topic of tonality, I address three concepts from current pedagogical practice that apply poorly to pop – key, the tonic triad, and functional harmony – and I propose improvements upon them.

The first, key, applies unproblematically in some rock songs, yet it is just as often an albatross that creates unnecessary difficulties, for two reasons: 1) the unwarranted marriage of tonal center and mode/scale; and 2) the unjustified expectation of authentic-cadential confirmation. The second main concept, the abstract, invariant tonic triad, is likewise artificially strict, because of: 1) pop’s fluid integration of various diatonic and pentatonic scales, 2) its commonplace intonational vocal inflections (“blue notes”), and 3) pop’s widespread deployment of third-less power chords as opposed to triads. The third and final main concept, functional harmony, is a poor fit for much pop to the extent that the notion remains limited to a handful of cadential root progressions from the Baroque; the set of schematic progressions must be significantly expanded. (Doll 2017’s 77 harmonic schemas are a start in this direction.) To effectively teach this new "music of theory," I argue that our "theory of music" should separate center and mode/scale, not rely on defining an abstract tonic triad, and engage a much broader range of harmonic progressions.



KEYNOTE— Public Music Theory and Pedagogy

J. Daniel Jenkins, University of South Carolina

In recent decades, academics from a variety of disciplines have shown greater interest in interactions with a wider community. Universities reward volunteerism, both in the application process and in the guise of service-learning courses. Foundations offer funding to encourage research that engages the public sphere. Professional organizations, including the Society for Music Theory, offer panel discussions about careers outside of academia.

           The coinage of the term “public music theory” then, could seem like an attempt to jump on the latest bandwagon in higher education. And while the emerging and growing interest in public music theory is certainly synergetic with recent trends such as community engagement, public music theory actually has a long history that includes figures such as Anne Young, Hermann von Helmholtz, Donald Francis Tovey, Arnold Schoenberg, and Leonard Bernstein. Therefore, a pedagogy informed by public music theory is, among other things, one that seeks to recover a part of our own heritage that has been downplayed, rejected, or forgotten.

           Many of our best historical models of public music theory adopt a “sage-on-the-stage” approach, in which information is imparted from a knowledgeable “expert” to an amateur. While these models are certainly important, they do not encapsulate the totality of what we might mean by public music theory. As more and more music theorists embrace interactions with those outside the academy, I would argue that public music theory will be most successful not when it centers on the “music theory,” but rather when it focuses on the “public,” what their needs are, what they are seeking to know and to understand, how they are hoping to change, and how we can change to meet their needs. In so doing, we can not only reclaim and celebrate the past of public music theory, but lead it to a brighter future.



Unfolding the complexity of intonation conceptions and teaching – with possible implications for aural class

Anne Katrine Bergby, Norwegian Academy of Music


Intonation is a central topic in the training of music performers. Students work on intonation in different educational contexts, such as individual lessons, chamber music, rehearsals with an accompanist teacher, and aural training classes. Knowledge in intonation is often implicit, embodied and experience based, and it is seldom articulated or theoreticized. Hence, we still know little about intonation as a phenomenon and mutual teaching object within the context of higher education in music—knowledge that may benefit the development and improvement of curricula, teaching, and learning.

This paper draws on data from my ongoing PhD-project titled “Teachers’ understandings of intonation in music performance education.” The project asks: “what is the variation in teachers’ accounts of intonation in music performance and in music teaching, and how can this variation be explained and understood?” I will use methods inspired by phenomenography to map and conceptualize the variation in teachers’ accounts of intonation. Then, I will discuss my findings making use of case studies, theory and literature to search for explanation and understanding.

The present paper presentation concentrates on the empiric data from this PhD-project, rather than on the analysis and results. Interviews with sixteen teachers in music theory, chamber music, and different instruments at a Nordic college of music reveal a manifold of thoughts on intonation and intonation teaching. I discuss these findings from a music theory/aural training pedagogy point of view, asking about the possible implications for music theory teaching, as well as proposing how music theory can contribute to students’ development of intonation skills. This presentation includes educational perspectives on aims and interdisciplinary responsibilities. In addition, it offers some practical views on how we can address intonation in aural class, drawing on examples and experiences from Scandinavian and German aural training and text books (Alldahl 1990, Geller 1997, Bergby 2009).



Timbre, Tuning, and Implicit Learning of Absolute Pitch: Implications for Aural Skills Pedagogy

Elizabeth West Marvin, Eastman School of Music; Su Yin Mak, The Chinese University of Hong Kong


It is often assumed that musicians with absolute pitch (AP) identify pitches without any external reference. Our paper reexamines this assumption through qualitative analysis of interview data acquired from Hong Kong, which was chosen as a research site for its cross-cultural pedagogical factors. Hong Kong music students typically learn music from an early age, which is associated with AP acquisition, and like their American counterparts they study European music theory using English terminology. Yet they are also ethnically Asian, Cantonese native speakers who have exposure to both Western and Traditional Chinese Music, and whose first aural training employed British-style tonic sol-fa (moveable-do, la-based minor) instead of fixed-do solfège.

We interviewed 20 AP musicians from Hong Kong  to collect first-hand accounts of their AP abilities and musical training. All participants scored above 85% on a 48-item pitch identification test (Mean = 97.1% correct). From the full data set, we present select cases that illustrate how AP abilities may be impacted by early musical experiences—in particular, implicit learning of a fixed-pitch template and tuning/temperament standards. We compare these results with Marvin (2019), which reported interview data from American students.  We found that most informants demonstrated strong preference for A440 tuning and impaired AP processing when listening to music involving unequal temperament. We discuss these findings in light of the two AP “types” (heightened tonal memory vs. differences in perceptual encoding) posited by Ross, Gore, and Marks (2005).  We suggest that AP is tied to an external instrumental standard, either as a template in long-term memory or through continuous updating via implicit learning, or both. We revisit the pedagogical strategies for aural-skills training in AP listeners suggested Marvin (2007) and explore further pedagogical implications of these findings for the music theory classroom.



Music Theory Teaching in the 21st Century: Some Reflections and Proposals about the Foundations of Music Theory Instruction

Alfonso Meave, Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey


In traditional music schools, music theory has been taught, more or less, as an uncritical labeling tool for musical objects. It is not unusual that the contents of music theory courses at the undergraduate level include notes, intervals, scales, triads, forms, harmony, etc. Even if these issues are valuable, one should ask: is this ‘labeling system’ music theory at all? To answer this query probably we need to know what is theory and then what is music theory. Both questions are difficult. The first ‘elicits a wide range of answers, depending on how you ask, whom you ask, when you ask and for what purpose…it also takes academics off guard and unsettle even entrenched convictions.’ (Corvellec, 2013) On the other hand, ‘music theory might be a theory of an object with epistemological problems.’ (Broman, 2017) A discussion about our educational paradigms must be carried out if we want to harmonize the pluralistic perspective of current music theory and its pedagogical approaches. If interest in the theory lies in its ‘potential to evoke meaning’ (Corvellec, 2013), the interest in teaching music theory could be found in its potential to display multiple meanings that plural epistemologies offer. (Cook, 2002) Surely, this will allow teachers and students to have a broader perspective of the value of music theory. Thus, we aim to introduce a philosophical discussion about the foundations of music theory and how these foundations are commonly taught. To achieve this, we analyze the concepts of theory and music theory and present Cook’s idea of pluralistic epistemologies. Then, we raise the question about whether music literacy is the same as music theory. Finally, we propose some issues and topics to enrich music theory teaching and present some examples of didactic implementation of these proposals at Tecnológico de Monterrey (CSF) in Mexico City.



Teaching Counterpoint, Harmony, and Voice Leading with Galant Schemas

Nathan Baker, Casper College


Music majors seem to be entering our schools with less exposure to classical music, resulting in a complete unfamiliarity of its grammar. Without this preexposure to draw upon, traditional abstract methods of teaching counterpoint, harmony, and voice leading result in student writing that is unstylistic and all too often unmusical. I have experienced more satisfying results by using Robert Gjerdingen’s galant schemas as the basis for students writing two-voice counterpoint. After being introduced to the basic structure of a schema, students embellish the structure, thereby naturally learning principles of structural hierarchy, melodic figuration, and musical gestures that are stylistically idiomatic. By recognizing commonalities across multiple schemas, students acquire an organic understanding of harmony. Adding a third voice to the music leads students to write smooth but interesting lines for each voice in a multi-part texture, rather than awkwardly trying to link one isolated vertical chunk of notes to the next. With very little difficulty, students soon find themselves writing first a complete phrase of music, then a period, and finally a full piece in rounded binary form. In this workshop I will demonstrate the use of galant schemas in the introductory theory classroom, leading participants from basic schema structures through the process of embellishment, finally creating a simple but complete and satisfying piece of music idiomatic to the galant style.


Gjerdingen, Robert. 2007. Music in the Galant Style. New York: Oxford University Press.

Gjerdingen, Robert, ed. 2007. Partimenti. Journal of Music Theory, 51:1.

Niedt, Friedrich Erhard. 1721/1989. The Musical Guide: Part 2, trans. Pamela Poulin and Irmgard Taylor. New York: Oxford University Press.

Sanguinetti, Giorgio. 2012. The Art of Partimento: History, Theory, and Practice. New York: Oxford University Press.



WORKSHOP— Instrument and aural training

Victoria C. Jakhelln, Norwegian Academy of Music


Musicians at a high level want to be associated with having a good musical ear. Still it is not uncommon for music students to fear the aural training classes and having trouble seeing the use of it or how it relates to their daily routine of practicing on their instrument (so I’ve heard).

In this workshop I will demonstrate how we at the Norwegian Academy of Music (NAM) in Oslo over the last twenty years have developed a teaching style in aural training that focuses on a close connection between instrument practice and aural training, where the students play their instruments in our classes. I will show how we are working to eliminate the gap between aural training and music performance so the students learn to use their aural training skills in a practical manner and develop their ear as well as possible in a musical context. Working on the students’ inner hearing is essential. Aural training should assist the musicians when studying new repertoire all the way from getting an overview, sight reading, through learning, structuring, memorizing and knowing a piece. I will also show examples on how the students can bring their own repertoire to the aural training class and we use them actively there.

This development of bringing the instruments to our classes has been supported by a great interest and engagement from many instrumental teachers.

The workshop will be very practical with demonstrations of different types of exercises we use with the students playing their instruments. Participants are welcome to be active in the workshop.



WORKSHOP— Hearing the Waves: Teaching Sound Synthesis through Aural Skills

Paul Thomas, Texas Woman’s University


Today’s popular music relies heavily, and sometimes exclusively, on synthesized and electronically produced sounds. Despite the ubiquity of these sounds, students rarely know how these sounds are produced and lack the basic vocabulary to even describe them as something other than “synthesizer sounds”. This presentation will show how students can learn to identify different types of electronic sounds and digital audio processing using the same types of ear-training exercises used in collegiate aural skills classrooms. Attendees will be shown how dictation, error detection, and pitch-matching skills developed in the aural skills course can be applied to the identification and reproduction of different synthesized waveforms and basic audio processes. Ideas for getting students to hear and create different types of synthesized sounds using free and low-cost apps, websites, and instruments will be shared.



POSTERS— Abstracts shown at the end



Designing the Reflective Essay: An Instrument for Integration and Customization of Music Theory Learning Experiences

Anna Ferenc, Wilfried Laurier University


In his article published in College Music Symposium, “Students Evaluate Music Theory Courses: A Reddit Community Survey” (2018), James Gutierrez reports on his survey of current music majors and graduates regarding their experience of undergraduate music theory study. Although the survey shows that participants perceive theory study as valuable and beneficial, it also indicates much room for curricular improvement particularly in the area identified as integration, which includes shortcomings in connecting theory study with other music classes, related subjects, and student goals. Gutierrez perceives that students need instruction that “leaves room for their experiences to play a more central role in the information process.”

These observations on improvement support the training of reflective practice in core music theory instruction, which can address these concerns, but is typically overlooked in this area. Since the publication of John Dewey’s, "How We Think: A Restatement of the Relation of Reflective Thinking to the Educative Process" (1933), a well-established body of literature on reflection documents it as the process through which integration of information, self-regulation, and knowledge transfer is achieved. However, to attain these reflective goals with disciplinary novices is a challenging task.

This presentation responds to Gutierrez’s identification of integration as a shortcoming in music theory instruction by discussing how to design and assess brief reflective essay assignments for music theory core learning, which offer students opportunities to focus on their learning experiences and invites them to integrate new information with previous knowledge, to self-regulate, and to transfer their learning of music theory to other areas. The assignment design incorporates dimensions of learner-centered teaching as identified in the work of Maryellen Weimer (2013) and Phyllis Blumberg (2009), but may be implemented into any type of classroom environment. Samples of resulting student reflections show evidence of integration and customization of music theory learning experiences.



The Tristan Paper: Teaching Operatic Analysis and Prose Writing in Second-Year Theory

William Marvin, Eastman School of Music


Recent literature (Marvin 2005, Inman 2017, Rogers 2017 and 2018, others) offers much-needed assistance to theory pedagogues tasked with developing students’ writing skills while keeping their analytical observations accurate and foregrounded. Complementing this research, I present a four-week teaching module on nineteenth-century operatic analysis for second-year or advanced undergraduate study. While there is no shortage of worthy repertoire for such a project, Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde allows students to address complex formal and harmonic considerations and develop their own voices in analysis.

The presentation offers assignments (Supplement 1) and course content presented through lecture, discussion, and guided analysis. Students receive an analytic toolbox (Supplement 2), model analyses for emulation (Supplement 3), and rubrics for constructing their own analyses, and step-by-step methods for converting their discoveries into successful prose. At the end of the unit, students submit a 2000-3000 word essay (as my students refer to it, “The Tristan Paper”) on an assigned scene from the opera. Beginning with the so-called Prelude, students quickly move beyond the iconic opening sonority into the formal and harmonic materials that Wagner appropriated from earlier music they have studied. Students learn that Wagner’s expressive language developed in dialogue with traditional tonal materials, and his innovations are understood as extensions of monotonality rather than as replacements. The vast analytic literature on Wagnerian form and harmony is referenced and digested so that students are working on significant musical problems that remain controversial within scholarly discourse. The learning outcomes of the unit are made explicit: students develop skill in analytic writing, internalize important aspects of Wagnerian harmonic and formal technique, and recognize that analysis allows for as much authorial interpretation as does musical performance. I also reference assessment methods, and implementation for individual instructors or for groups of parallel course sections taught by teaching assistants.



Let's Talk Theory: Fostering Communication Skills in Music Theory via the Research Symposium

Andrew Farina, Butler University


One of the challenges facing music theory students in the 21st century is a need to effectively communicate their own insights into the music they learn. To address this need, I created a symposium in which all sections of Theory 3 and Form and Analysis present a detailed analysis of pieces from their repertoire. This paper will lay out the objectives of the symposium, outline its structure, explore the successes and difficulties, highlight the results from the last four symposia, and consider how elements of this activity might be implemented at other institutions.

The music theory symposium was created for students to accomplish three objectives: to experience analyzing a repertoire piece in a detailed manner, to present analyses visually and orally, and to express how analysis impacts performance of the repertoire. Students self-select pieces from their solo or ensemble repertoire for the project. They are then encouraged to think about multiple types of analysis, including motivic, harmonic, temporal, structural, and textual analyses. At the one-day symposium, Music Theory 3 students exhibit posters with an accompanying 10-minute paper, while students of Form and Analysis present more traditional conference papers or multimedia presentations.

The one-day symposium is both a centerpiece of the music theory curriculum and a community event akin to a concert. The symposium takes place in the university library with refreshments. Last year, over 100 faculty, student, and community members attended. Applied faculty report advances in critical thinking within lessons and higher-quality student understanding of their repertoire. Furthermore, students have used the symposium to further their professional portfolios and have even been accepted to graduate music conferences. Although challenges include the labor-intensive nature of advising students, I believe the successes illustrate the benefits of using an undergraduate symposium in 21st-century music theory pedagogy.



Post-Tonal Postcards: Synthesizing Analysis and Reflection through Prose Writing

Angela Ripley, College of Wooster


When first encountering post-tonal music, students discover repertoire that differs aesthetically from music they have previously studied and requires new analytical tools. To help students approach this repertoire with curiosity and open minds, I frame my undergraduate post-tonal analysis course as a virtual study-abroad experience with “postcard” assignments that synthesize analysis and reflection through prose writing. Each postcard includes a 300- to 500-word essay (message) and a single page of annotated musical examples (picture). The brief format of the assignment requires students to express their analytical observations concisely and facilitates the grading process.

In their postcards, students analyze complete compositions through the lenses of specific themes. For example, students discuss pentatonic collections and pitch centricity (Debussy, “La fille aux cheveux de lin”), explain how imitation and z-cells provide unity and contrast (Bartók, “Chromatic Invention 1”), and explore relationships among pitch-class sets (Webern, Op. 7, No. 3). The final postcard assignment emphasizes reflection by inviting students to select their own repertoire to illustrate the concepts they found most important in the course.

By addressing each postcard to a different recipient, students learn to communicate effectively in a variety of rhetorical contexts. Recipients include a music student who has studied tonal music theory but has not yet encountered post-tonal concepts, a friend or loved one who knows very little about music, a music theory professor considering the student’s application for admission to a graduate program in music, and the student’s future self. Students explain musical terms as needed and connect their analyses to recipients’ experience and interests.

Students respond positively to the postcard assignments, developing creative titles as captions and sometimes formatting their assignments to look like real postcards. With insightful analytical comments and language tailored to their intended recipients, the postcards become souvenirs of learning from students’ exploration of post-tonal music.



The Semiological Tripartition and Analytical Writing Pedagogy

Joan Huguet, Knox College


Recent pedagogical research (Rogers 2017, 2018; Inman 2018) has encouraged instructors to systematically incorporate analytical writing into the theory curriculum. However, analytical writing is technical writing, which is often a completely foreign skill to music students. Compounding this problem is many students’ weak understanding of grammar, which leads them to write unclear, disorganized sentences. How can an instructor create a framework that not only encourages musically sophisticated interpretations, but also provides much-needed scaffolding for the new and often daunting task of analytical writing?

Jean-Jacques Nattiez’s semiological tripartition (Nattiez 1990) offers an effective tool for structuring the analytical research and writing process. Nattiez posits that all statements about music fall into three categories of analysis: poietic considers the composer’s creative process, immanent considers the musical score, and esthesic considers the listeners’ responses (including performers). Finally, Nattiez suggests that analysts operate at a metatheoretical level, highlighting connections between the three categories of the tripartition that create musical meaning.

This presentation will discuss strategies for incorporating the semiological tripartition into all aspects of the writing process, including source evaluation, analysis, and proofreading. Any paper, even if its content is not explicitly semiological, can benefit from considering how its networks of analytical, historical, performance-based, and perceptual claims interact with each other to create meaning.

This approach to analytical writing offers several advantages. The first is stylistic: when students consider how the composer, the musical text, or the listener drives every point of their argument, their sentences become more clear and direct, avoiding convoluted passive-voice constructions. Additionally, considering networks of meanings often empowers students to move beyond simple description and encourages meaningful connections to musicology, semiotics, performance studies, and cognition. Finally, student writers have their own place within the model, granting them agency and making explicit their own role as interpreter.



WORKSHOP— Creating Measurable Learning Objectives

Sara Bakker, Utah State University


Creating learning objectives, statements of the knowledge and skills that students are expected to demonstrate, is critical to good pedagogy. Learning objectives set goals for student-learning in a given assignment, course, or curriculum and are the thing we measure through assessments. Learning objectives are thus foundational to all courses that evaluate learning and bring great potential for creating a coherent educational experience. Despite their critical importance, however, learning objectives are not always explicit or succinctly stated in assignments, syllabi, or curricula. (Gawboy, 2013)

This workshop will increase learning-objective literacy in two parts. In Part 1, I will share information about learning objectives and help participants differentiate between content goals (topics a course covers) and learning goals (learning objectives). To start, participants will list topics for a course they have taught. I will then lecture on and briefly model best-practices for writing learning objectives. I will summarize the six types of knowledge recognized in education research (Bloom, 1956; Anderson and Krathwohl, 2001), and outline four characteristics of high quality learning objectives (Ambrose et al. 2010). I will then ask participants to reframe the topics they listed as learning objectives.

In part 2, participants will work in small groups to design a course using a process that forces them to articulate their learning objectives. Each group will begin by defining learning objectives for their course. I will lecture briefly on the connection between learning objectives, assessment, and their capacity to unify a course, and share examples of how a single learning objective can be assessed in multiple ways. Finally, groups will determine 1-3 appropriate modes of assessment for each of their learning objectives. Designing courses with learning objectives in mind helps us articulate those most fundamental issues of learning: what exactly it entails and how it can be demonstrated.



WORKSHOP— Teaching Timbre in the Aural Skills Curriculum

William Mason, Wheaton College-Massachusetts


In this workshop I’ll present two lessons for teaching timbral aural skills, and discuss learning objectives and methods of assessment.

My first timbre lesson concerns aural recognition of equalization and compression techniques, drawing from Thompson (2005). I will share with participants some clean recordings of vocal, string, and wind instruments and show how to use Garage Band to model various common EQ settings and compression. For assessment, I send poorly EQ'd recordings to my students and have them respond with what they'd tell an engineer to fix; or I send a flat recording and ask students how different EQ strategies might enhance parts of the performance.

My second timbre lesson concerns applying research into timbre and embodied cognition from Cox (2016), Wallmark (2014), and Heidemann (2016) to contemporary performance. I assign the students a piece with extended techniques (usually Lachenmann’s first string quartet). I ask them to imitate the requested techniques with their voice and with their instrument, and to reflect on what it feels like to make those sounds. They perform sections of the piece using both voices and instruments.

We compare our ad-hoc performances to two recordings of the quartet for a brief performance and analysis discussion. I conclude the lesson by discussing research into timbre as an index of effort and exertion, and how listeners relate musical sound metaphorically to embodied knowledge of sound production. Students report that conceiving of the sounds this way helps transform the piece from undifferentiated noise into a more nuanced and textured sound world, one in which they can better track development and draw long-range connections.

I will conclude by making space to discuss the disciplinary challenges facing timbre ear training and argue that nuances of timbre should not be the domain of technologists alone. Further, foregrounding (and thus valuing) timbral subtleties in class allows music theorists to incorporate more diverse repertoire and a broader range of methodological approaches, which may in turn help our field diversify.



WORKSHOP— Figure This: An Aural Skills Sketching Technique for Melodic Analysis

Jana Millar, Baylor University


This workshop/demonstration is on the topic of melodic figures commonly used in common-practice period melodies and my development of a sketching technique for (1) analyzing sight singing melodies visually and (2) analyzing melodic dictation examples aurally. In the workshop, I will:

•          introduce the basic figures used in this technique–– stepwise lines (“runs”), neighbors (upper and lower), arpeggios (including broken chords), as well as isolated intervals––and share my symbol for each,

•          use scale-degree recognition warmups and share resources for student practice,

•          demonstrate an exercise in recognizing figures and their initial scale degrees,

•          demonstrate and provide the experience of using melodic-dictation shorthand consisting of single-line rhythmic notation plus sketching of melodic figures,

•          show how I instruct my students to analyze sight-singing melodies by marking their assigned melodies with the appropriate figure symbols (stretching each symbol to encompass the length of the figure whether it occurs during a single beat or over several),

•          engage workshop participants in marking given melodies and comparing results,

•          share my melodic analysis assignment given prior to every sight-singing exam, in which pairs of students collaborate to write an analysis of one of the required melodies, given a specific list of instructions; this will include sharing some stellar examples by creative students,

•          discuss the application of written analysis to the experience of “live” sight singing in a test setting (“tell me what you see”),

•          give participants the opportunity to give feedback and share ideas on this topic.

Perceived results suggest that students are more appropriately engaged in preparing melodies for sight singing, better able to use music terminology in talking about melody, and more successful in taking melodic dictation through this prescribed method.



WORKSHOP— Warming Up to Post-Tonal Aural Skills

James Sullivan, University of Evansville


Effective vocal warmups are essential for any aural skills course. They provide a context to establish and reinforce basic, functional vocal technique. They aurally expose students to new tonal concepts prior to formal introduction, putting sound before notation. They also make students active participants in that exposure, putting production before notation. Finally, they are an ideal vehicle for recontextualizing familiar tonal patterns, which is itself an effective way to introduce new tonal concepts. While effective tonal warmups are probably familiar to most aural skills instructors and students, post-tonal warmups are probably not.

In this interactive workshop, I will share several types of post-tonal warmups that I have found especially effective in my own teaching. I will discuss how to incorporate them into a standard sequence of post-tonal topics, including post-tonal scales, intervals and interval cycles, collections and sets, inversional symmetry, and composing-out. I will also discuss ways in which they accomplish common course goals. Participants will get hands-on experience trying out warmups and developing their own, and they will leave with a packet of ready-made warmups that they can apply immediately in their courses.



WORKSHOP— What Does It Mean To Hear Harmony?

Timothy Chenette, Alexandra Phillips, Emily

Wood—Utah State University


Harmonic dictation in aural skills classes is a task ripe for more detailed examination. Karpinski 2000 devotes only 11 pages to the topic, focusing mostly on suggesting a few promising methods for developing “harmonic hearing.” But what are the specific tasks that students should be able to do when they complete the curriculum? What are the most efficient ways to achieve those goals? Are there inherent differences in how people hear that might affect these methods? And what does it mean to have “harmonic hearing” in the first place?

Since we cannot answer all these questions definitively, we propose a 45-minute workshop to discuss what is known and to explore them in an interactive format, introducing participants to the issues involved in this task, leading them through activities designed to help them think critically about their own harmonic hearing, and working collaboratively on appropriate curricular goals and methods. We will start by presenting a summary of Karpinski’s suggestions and a comparative overview of how textbooks approach the topic. We will then present a number of hypotheses for testing: first, non-mutually-exclusive hypotheses about what we might be focusing on when we hear harmony, and second, hypotheses about factors that may affect how we hear harmony. These will form the basis of a series of interactive exercises where participants will try out different ways of hearing and discuss them with others. Finally, we will take the results of these exercises as the starting point for a discussion of what exactly we want our students to be able to do and what methods are appropriate for these goals. Participants will leave with a clearer idea of exactly what they are asking their students to do, their curricular goals, and the best methods for achieving these goals.



KEYNOTE— Never Twice the Same: Listening and Improvisation

Daniel B. Stevens, University of Delaware


The last decade has witnessed a tremendous increase in publications addressing the roles and benefits of improvisation in music theory classrooms. From style-specific improvisations to those that develop hands-on fluency with fundamental concepts and skills, the scope of these writings is extensive, yet their potential to transform music theory pedagogy remains largely unrealized. In this interactive keynote and workshop, participants will explore a variety of improvisation activities suitable for use throughout core, upper-level, and non-major theory classes and develop strategies for making improvisation an integral part of students’ music making, listening, and learning. In particular, we will focus on improvisation activities that are geared toward perceiving and creating music holistically. We will use improvisatory, active-listening techniques to identify the harmonic structure of large-scale formal units (e.g. development sections). We will also explore several small-group improvisation activities that use rule-based logic and non-linear design to determine the creation, interaction, and manipulation of different musical elements (e.g. texture, timbre, register, dynamics, meter, rhythm, and pitch) over a whole piece. Using improvisation to create and understand real music helps students develop the ability to focus on distinct elements and their interrelationship, to hold and manipulate elements in working memory, and to attend and respond to dynamic inputs, such as changing musical elements, ensemble activity, spatial orientations, and expressive gestures. When implemented throughout a theory course or sequence, improvisation activities that focus on music’s holistic features provide students a rich, personalized set of experiential lenses through which to consider other pieces, flexible analytical tools adaptable to numerous types of musical relationships, and a productive interpretive mindset oriented toward understanding parts in relation to the whole.



Mathematics and Music Theory: Assisting Music Theory Students with Math-Related Learning Disabilities

Jane Piper Clendinning, Nancy Rogers, Colleen Ganley, Sara Hart—Florida State University


Widespread beliefs in links between mathematics and music date back to the Ancient Greeks. Although researchers have reported positive correlations between mathematical and musical abilities, empirical study of the association between mathematics and music theory has been scant. The Mathematics and Music Theory Project brings together faculty members from psychology and music to examine this phenomenon. Our previous research includes study of data (N >1000) comparing undergraduate students’ performance in music theory and mathematics that provided statistical confirmation of connections between mathematics and music theory, followed by development and implementation of a screening tool that predicts which incoming students are likely to experience unusual difficulty with core music theory courses. We have demonstrated significant correlations between music theory class performance and abilities to identify visual patterns (including geometric shapes, successions of letters, and notes on a musical staff) and the ability to recognize representations of rotated three-dimensional objects.

Early identification of students who are likely to experience difficulty in music theory raises the question of how to assist students after they have been identified. We have implemented two lines of inquiry to explore this question: 1) We are investigating the effective predictive screening tasks (listed above) using eye tracking equipment to reveal systematic differences in approach between subjects of varying abilities and experience. Specifically, we examine whether experts (music doctoral students and faculty) and novices (undergraduate students with varying music theory experience who read music notation) attend differently to high-information notes compared to notes that are less important to the task. 2) We have conducted interviews with two groups—undergraduate students identified as likely to experience difficulty, and successful graduate students who reported having difficulty as undergraduates. This presentation will provide an overview of our research to date, focusing on recent investigations using eye tracking and student interviews.



Student Learning Outcomes as Disciplinary, Institutional, and Cultural Discourse

Scott M. Strovas, Ann B. Stutes—Wayland Baptist University


This paper reimagines course objectives, sometimes framed as student learning outcomes, for the undergraduate theory sequence. Our revised outcomes vitalize the cultivation of methodologies related to 1) effective musical discourse, 2) critical approaches to listening and creative work, 3) sensitive collaboration, and 4) transference of these professional disciplinary demands beyond the classroom. We argue that, in their authenticity, these outcomes depart decidedly from the codified model of content-driven outcomes. If, as Anna Gawboy (2013) recognizes, courses emphasizing practical disciplinary activities “represent instances of exceptional pedagogy rather than the norm,” then our outcomes elevate professionally-relevant course objectives from their all too often implicit or secondary station to a position of emphasis in the programmatic design of the theory core.

Such reconceptualization has favorable and far-reaching implications, which we first demonstrate through discussion of recent changes in the design of our own program. A checklist of conceptual content—and its corollary, the step-by-step conceptual design of textbooks—no longer guides the progression of our sequence. Instead, our outcomes espouse a philosophy of trust in appropriately selected repertoire to exemplify, reveal, and reinforce through guided study salient conceptual principles. Authentic assessments supplant written exams, aural skills assumes an elevated role, and the regular inclusion of diverse repertoire has become a reality. Most importantly, albeit anecdotally, our commitment to mentoring students to harness the methodologies of music theory toward professional ends has built trust, established mentor-apprenticeship cultures, and enhanced student success. Institutionally and culturally, the outcomes justify the relevance of musical training at a time when higher education faces significant fiscal and political challenges. They satisfy students who seek immediate professional relevance for their economic educational investment, promote the transferable skills of communication, creativity, and collaboration, and dispel the cultural misrepresentation that universities are stewards of purely “academic” training.



AP Music Theory and College: Coordinating the Curriculum Across the Nation

Jennifer Beavers, Stacey Davis—University of Texas at San Antonio


The Advanced Placement Music Theory program is designed to prepare high school students for college-level music studies and provide an opportunity to earn college credit, with a general recommendation that an adequate exam score earns credit for one semester of theory and/or aural skills. Although the AP curriculum contains many topics that are found in that first-semester course, it also includes more advanced concepts that are commonly found in later semesters (chromaticism, modulation, form, etc.). This breadth of topics provides excellent general preparation for college by exposing students to a wide variety of concepts and skills. In contrast, an alternative curriculum that is more closely coordinated with a first-semester course might lead to improved fluency and more substantial preparation for the subsequent college semesters.

As a first step in exploring the efficacy of these different approaches, this paper will report on the results of two descriptive surveys that assess the degree of alignment between the AP Music Theory curriculum and introductory college-level music theory and aural skills courses throughout the United States. One survey was sent to all of the current high school AP music theory teachers, who specified how much attention they give to each topic within the AP curriculum. The results of that survey will be compared to a companion version that was sent to college music theory faculty, who indicated when each of those same topics is addressed in their two-year music theory and aural skills sequence. Both groups of participants also provided information about the perceived purposes of the AP program, the demographics of their schools, and the characteristics of their classes (frequency of class meetings, class size, chosen textbooks, etc.). Data collection and analysis are currently in progress. Final results will be presented at the conference.



The Language Acquisition Process; a New (Old) Way of Teaching Music

David Marvel, University of Oklahoma


For centuries, musicians have commented on the relationship between music and language, primarily to highlight the communicative and expressive capabilities of music; however, very few have compared music and language to highlight how music can be learned effectively. In “The Language Instinct” (1993), Steven Pinker argues that language is an innate faculty of the human mind that is qualitatively identical amongst all people (p. 18). The way language is learned was never consciously devised, it is an instinctual process that has evolved to facilitate communication. I have adapted the language acquisition process for use in the aural skills class in five progressive steps:

1. Learn to make sounds (Performance)

2. Learn to communicate with those sounds (Improvisation)

3. Learn symbols that represent those sounds (Notation)

4. Learn to transform those symbols into sounds (Reading)

5. Learn to transform sounds into symbols (Transcription)

The results of using this approach indicate that exploiting the instinctual language acquisition process is an effective means of developing what Michael Rogers refers to as “hearing eyes and seeing ears” (Teaching Approaches in Music Theory, 1984). Making students aware of this process helps to summarize the primary skills they will be developing in an ear training class and illustrates how more complex tasks are dependent upon fluency with easier tasks. In my presentation, I will elaborate on the musical elements involved in each step and offer strategies that can be used to implement the language acquisition process effectively in the aural skills classroom.



Creating Intertextuality Webs in the Music Theory Classroom

Cara Stroud, Michigan State University


As music theory instructors, we often find ourselves looking to stimulate students’ curiosity by encouraging them to connect the course material with their own experience. But how? Intertextuality—the fusion of multiple texts in an understanding of a single text—provides a way to meet these goals in the classroom by empowering students to describe their own listening experiences through the creation of intertextuality “webs” that cut across genres and time periods. This paper presentation discusses the advantages of including intertextuality in the music theory curriculum and offers two sequential lessons for placing students into active engagement with intertextuality.

Michael Klein’s 2005 book, Intertextuality in Western Art Music, provides an in-depth examination of how intertextuality functions in our experiences as listeners and analysts when we bring a variety of repertoire to a musical text. The lessons in this presentation encourage students to explore this concept by interrogating the connections between course repertoire and their own personal repertoires. The first lesson is an introduction to the concept of intertexuality using material from Chapter 1 of Klein’s book, and it includes an in-class web activity for students to demonstrate comprehension of the concept. In the second lesson, students apply the concept by creating and presenting their own intertextuality webs, using a given piece of music as a starting point. Samples of student work illustrate the construction of “nodes” (brief musical examples) and “arrows” (annotations describing the nature of the intertextual connection) in an intertextuality web. I include suggestions for modifying these lessons for undergraduate and graduate courses with content ranging from the undergraduate core to post-tonal and popular music. Through intertextuality webs, students can have the opportunity to personalize their engagement in a theory course. Attendees will leave with a starter kit for implementing lessons using intertextuality webs in their own classrooms.



The social (constructivist) classroom: designing effective groupwork tasks for music theory

Joshua Groffman, University of Pittsburgh


Groupwork is a central component of many active learning classrooms. Working collaboratively takes advantage of students’ enjoyment of social learning opportunities and can make for an invigorating change of pace. The work of Pamela Pike (2017) and others has confirmed the idea that students can benefit from working with and learning from their peers; this is especially so in the context of the “heterogeneous” classroom, in which student ability and confidence levels vary.

Creating groupwork tasks can seem hit-or-miss, however. In this paper, I suggest some principles for effective groupwork design, grounding my argument in research on social constructivism and complex instruction. Elizabeth Cohen (2014) identifies five aspects of a “groupworthy task,” an activity that is optimally accomplished by students placed in peer groups:

1. The task must be open-ended, productively uncertain, and require complex problem solving.

2. The task must provide opportunities for students to use multiple intellectual abilities to access the task and to demonstrate intellectual competence.

3. The task must address discipline-based, intellectually important content.

4. The task must require positive interdependence and individual accountability.

5. The task must include clear criteria for evaluation of the group’s product and the individual


I present results from several semesters’ worth of teaching music with a heavy reliance on groupwork. Drawing on examples addressing a variety of topics, I argue that the tools and tasks of music theory are particularly suited to groupwork design because they are inherently open-ended and require multiple competencies in hearing, playing, and writing to engage with successfully. It is thus an ideal discipline for fostering interdependent and complex student interaction, even at the stage of acquiring core theory concepts and skills. I support my arguments with data from feedback in which students reflect on their own learning in groupwork and traditional lecture formats.



KEYNOTE— SmartMusic: Removing the “Fear Factor” from Sight Singing and Aural Skills

Cynthia I. Gonzales, Texas State University


SmartMusic software has gained attention as a “private electronic tutor” for sight singing. Students perform music notation displayed on screen, and the software assesses the performance for pitches and rhythmic accuracy. In addition to displaying a numeric score, the software transforms black-and-white music notation into a color-coded visual assessment of green, yellow, and red note heads. Green notes depict a correct performance of both pitch frequency and rhythmic placement; yellow notes correct pitch but incorrect rhythm, and red notes incorrect pitch.

As an “electronic tutor,” SmartMusic can assist students to develop numerous musical skills, including: matching pitch, reading music, increasing short-term melodic memory and working memory, as well aa hearing harmonies and chord progressions. SmartMusic can also deliver audio files for dictation and error detection.

SmartMusic removes what Susan Piagentini (Northwestern University) refers to as the “fear factor” some students associate with sight singing and aural skills, because SmartMusic allows students to practice in private, receive feedback in private, and repeat an exercise to improve their skills in private.

This two-hour session begins with a demonstration of SmartMusic: the variety of ways to engage the software as an electronic tutor and the diversity of skills that SmartMusic can assess. This portion of the session also includes data on how student skills increase over time through regular use of SmartMusic.

Participants are encouraged to bring laptop computers (with Google Chrome browser already installed) and head phones or ear buds.  Prior to the conference, participants will receive instructions to register for a complimentary 30-day SmartMusic subscription. The second portion of the session allows time for participants to interact with the software, as well as time to eat lunch (provided by MakeMusic). The session concludes with participants sharing their feedback after using the software, as well as time for Q&A.



“Play it again, Sam”: Expanding the Canon by Incorporating Film Music into the Undergraduate Music Theory Classroom

Janet Bourne, University of California, Santa Barbara


Music theorists have made strides in recent decades to expand repertoire beyond the Western art music canon (Hisama 2000), especially in the classroom. While wonderful worksheets and activities abound for incorporating repertoire such as popular music (Osborn 2018) and jazz (Stover 2018), surprisingly few resources exist on ways to incorporate film music and video game music into the undergraduate music theory classroom. My goal is to argue for the usefulness of incorporating film/video game music into the undergraduate theory classroom as well as provide attendees with concrete resources to incorporate film/video game music into their classrooms with ease. The advantage of including film music mirrors many advantages for including popular music: most undergraduate students know multimedia music well through intense exposure. First, I discuss how film/video game music repertoire reinforces existing learning objectives in music theory and aural skills courses (e.g. dictation, analysis) as well as new objectives and skills not often addressed. For example, film/video game music provide an intuitive gateway to building skills in creativity in part through analyzing and interpreting emotion, affect, association, program and musical narrative. Second, I list music analytic topics spanning a traditional music theory sequence most relevant to film music repertoire: texture and timbre, modality, asymmetrical meter, counterpoint, variations on motives/themes, schemata, modal mixture, and neo-Riemannian analysis. As examples, I show some concrete handouts and worksheets for homework and in-class activities that demonstrate how I use film music to teach some of the previously described learning objectives and topics. Finally, I provide multiple practical resources, including a list of specific film music examples to introduce these analytical topics (including track names, time stamps, etc.), resources on scores, and a list of music theory scholarship on film music analysis for additional information and context.



Schenkerian Analysis: Lessons from Chess Pedagogy

Yannis Rammos, Tekhnee


Recent scholarship has enabled a novel historiographic and pedagogic appreciation of games as means of music theory instruction. In this paper I draw inspiration from chess pedagogy to devise a set of collaborative and competitive "board games” for the practice of

Schenkerian analysis.

Heinrich Schenker's technique presents intriguing conceptual, cognitive, and pedagogic affinities with chess. Both activities involve sequences of granular operations subject to strict combinatorial rulesets, with successful “moves" representing finely honed responses to dynamic "game states" (consecutive chessboard configurations during a game, or stages of a Schenkerian graph in progress, respectively). It is suggestive indeed that, in postwar critical theory, the game of chess recurs alongside anagrams and labyrinths as metaphor of a potentially tortuous or conflictual symbolic search within a large space of possible significations or interpretations.

The proposed Schenkerian games are born at this interdisciplinary intersection, most prominently building on Jacques Lacan's taxonomy of "Four Discourses," which has attracted the attention of music theorists in recent years [e.g. Brodsky]. Among several variants mentioned in passing—some of them involving a keyboard instrument—I discuss especially three: competitive role-playing games, in which multiple Schenkerian analyses of the same tonal material rotate between student-analysts, each of whom undertakes to represent one of Lacan's four discourses; a board game with tradable “voice-leading transformation cards" circulating between the participating analysts; and collaborative "middleground meetups" in which two groups take turns, one analyzing from the surface towards the background and the other in the opposite direction, as they collectively try to converge in the middleground.

Finally, I outline a rationale for the game design in line with tenets of chess pedagogy and the predictive framework of Cognitive Load Theory.



Graduate Instructor Peer Observation in Music Theory Pedagogy

Alyssa Barna, Sam Reenan—Eastman School of Music


Peer observation is a valuable mechanism for faculty development. It helps teachers to be more self-reflective (Peel 2005) and can serve the purposes of both professional development and judgment regarding advancement. Additionally, reciprocal observation is effective for observer and instructor alike (Cosh 1998) and helps “foster colleagueship and community” among peers (Edgerton 1996, 17). Our review of the field finds that scholarship is available at the faculty level but virtually nonexistent for graduate instructors.

Our primary research question is “what, if any, peer observation happens at the graduate instructor level?” Concentrating on music theory pedagogy, we disseminated an IRB-approved survey consisting of 10 questions to faculty and graduate students in collegiate music theory departments to gather quantitative data. Preliminary findings suggest that graduate instructor peer observation is largely isolated to only a few music theory departments across North America. We will analyze the data further to determine the kinds of music theory graduate programs that typically prioritize peer observation and the ways in which the outcomes compare with those of faculty peer observation.

Concurrently, we began a peer observation program with 6 fellow graduate instructors at our institution, creating and implementing documentation for specific kinds of observations. Our longer document is designed for a comprehensive, first-time classroom visit, in order to guide an observer’s in-class reflection. Another form covers targeted observations that focus on one particular aspect of a class period, such as time management or student engagement. We intend to perform qualitative analyses of these forms, expecting to find trends in the most common areas of concern among instructors, as well as uniform responses to specific categories of observation. Further, we will stage semi-structured interviews with those participating in our peer observation program, seeking to determine what personal effects the process has had on their teaching.


Cosh, Jill. 1998. “Peer Observation in Higher Education -- A Reflective Approach.” Innovations in Education and Training International 35 (2): 171–176.

Donnelly, Roisin. 2007. “Perceived Impact of Peer Observation Teaching in Higher Education.” International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education 19 (2): 117–129.

Hutchings, Pat. 1996. Making Teaching Community Property: A Menu for Peer Collaboration and Peer Review. Washington: American Association for Higher Education.

Peel, Deborah. 2005. “Peer Observation as a Transformatory Tool?” Teaching in Higher Education 10 (4): 489–504.



Expanding the Scope of Theory Fundamentals

Patricia Burt, University of Delaware


This semester, the repertoire lists for large ensembles at my institution contained mostly music written in the last 100 years. In their rehearsals, my students were playing modal and pentatonic melodies, counting time in changing meters, and, with their colleagues, creating rich, complex harmonies. In a traditional theory core, a student might not have any analytic tools to engage with this music until after three or four semesters. That’s a long time for students to make the decision that theory is not relevant to their musical lives.

By expanding what we traditionally consider to be “theory fundamentals,” and by extending the time we spend working with fundamentals, in the very first semester we can give our students analytic tools that allow them to connect theory with the music they are practicing with their friends every day, even if it is at a somewhat basic level. A semester-long course in fundamentals of music analysis can expand the types of scales, harmonies, and metric systems explored and include topics such as tuning systems and creation of accent. Texture and timbre are incredibly salient musical features and quite accessible topics for the beginning student. So that first semester students can begin to think about the big picture, fundamental concepts of form can be introduced such as grouping principles, motion toward climax, and closure.

At my institution, we are in the process of shifting our first semester theory class in the direction described above, and I will share some of the outcomes from teaching the updated class. Once students have a broad knowledge of musical objects and basic principles of musical form, they can begin to ask meaningful questions about and make sense of any work they encounter. In my opinion, it’s best to achieve that goal as early as possible.



From Design to Implementation: Creating Inclusive Assessments within the Music Theory Classroom

Stefanie Bilidas, Zachary Lloyd—Michigan State University


Current discussions within the music theory pedagogy community show trends toward inclusive and relevant pedagogy. One area of the classroom in which this has not been sufficiently addressed is assessment. Our aim in this presentation to discuss inclusive and culturally relevant assessment techniques geared towards the music theory classroom. We draw upon research within the discipline of music theory pedagogy, as well as educational literature regarding science and mathematics pedagogy, to highlight best practices for question creation. Following research completed by Leigh VanHandel (2012), we will explore how the ideas presented within the science and mathematics pedagogy literature can be applied to the music theory classroom. Specifically, we will focus on how questions may unintentionally privilege certain students in our classroom through their experience and relationship with the musical examples selected, as well as their reading comprehension ability. Expanding upon Maria Martiniello (2008), we consider how language, syntax, and semantics play a role in the comprehension of musical concepts. Within this discussion, we explore ways we can modify constructed questions to reflect the diversity present in the classroom by incorporating a varied selection of musical examples within the classroom and on assessments. Drawing upon research by Cora Palfy (forthcoming) and Timothy K. Chenette (2017, 2018), we will address ways to develop assessments using the more diverse repertoire, and will also examine ways to create newer, more creative assessments across the music theory curriculum. Our goal with this presentation is to provide resources and suggestions for instructors that will aid in designing questions that not only address the topic, but allow students the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge.



Shouldn’t the Test Fit the Tune? A Model for Designing Inclusive Aural Skills Assessments

Andrew Conklin, University of the Pacific


Musicianship curricula are usually designed according to a “top-down” model: teachers begin by identifying a set of core learning outcomes, then design ways of assessing student progress in these fundamental skills, and finally choose musical examples to “plug into” the assessments. This model is logical on its face, and yet in practice it can make musical diversity difficult to achieve beyond a superficial level. In a predicament undoubtedly familiar to many music educators, a teacher’s earnest attempts to draw from a wide range of musical styles are inevitably sidelined as the semester progresses and test preparation is prioritized. In this paper, I explore an alternative model for curriculum design in which the top-down flow chart is reversed: the teacher first identifies musical examples from a variety of styles and designs assessments to fit these styles, a process that informs and clarifies core learning outcomes. I use Aretha Franklin’s 1967 song, “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” as a test case for this model. Though the song’s intricate vocal phrasing makes the melody impractical for traditional melodic dictation, I outline a series of alternative dictation assessments that allow the teacher to prioritize higher levels of tonal and metrical orientation in testing situations. These alternative assessments allow the song, and others like it, to play a meaningful role in first- or second-year musicianship curricula while offering a fresh perspective on core learning objectives.




Harmonia 3: Launching an Audio-Streaming Interface to Support Ear-Training Applications

Rachel Mitchell, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley


Harmonia is a music theory app linked to a web-based learning management system (LMS). The app combines musical score notation with a patented real-time music analysis engine, meaning that the software can analyze, assess, and evaluate user responses such as staff notation, or analytical entries such as pitch names or roman numeral labels. Harmonia

automatically grades student work and provides instant, pedagogical feedback. The LMS provides a platform for content delivery and course configuration: teachers add lessons and exercises accessible by students through the app, set due dates and delivery options, review computer-graded student work, and more. Students complete assignments in the app and log in to the LMS to check their progress, activate Harmonia’s mentor/comment system, and purchase additional study content if desired.

New to Harmonia 3 (late spring/summer 2019) is an audio-streaming interface, accessible through the Harmonia LMS, which allows instructors to easily embed and configure high-quality audio in multiple formats directly into Harmonia lessons and assignments. For example, teachers can add or remove playback restraints such as pause, fast-forward, or rewind, and restrict the number of playback repetitions for an audio example. Additionally, all playback limits are clearly displayed for students on the audio playback transport, which also includes a “Test Audio” button so students can check their equipment in advance before playing an example.

This audio-streaming interface was created specifically to support the needs of the ear-training classroom. By being able to easily add streamed audio examples with a variety of playback options and limitations, teachers can create a wide variety of exercises and lessons to teach and assess aural skills. This presentation will demonstrate how to use the new audio-streaming interface and will introduce a sample of the latest ready-made ear-training lessons and exercises available in the Harmonia Content Library.



Synchronous and Asynchronous Collaboration using Online Whiteboards

Peter Lea, University of Missouri


Collaboration is an important aspect of a musician’s life and the ability to effectively work in a team is an essential skill. Unfortunately, the effort required by both student and teacher to participate in and manage group work can be onerous. I have found an online whiteboard to be especially useful in facilitating synchronous and asynchronous collaboration. Applications such as Jamboard, Web Whiteboard, and Mural include numerous helpful features; however, Realtimeboard seems best suited for music theory classes because of the ability to embed audio-visual and print media, to comment on specific parts of a score, and to type or draw free-hand on scores.

In this poster presentation, I will provide an overview of online whiteboards and how they are conducive to pedagogies that incorporate the flipped classroom and active learning. Second, I will share two different ways I have used Realtimeboard and outline the strengths and weaknesses of each approach. Participants will be able to comment on the poster before, during, or after the conference at The minimum technology required to run Realtimeboard is a smart device and an internet connection. The application can run in a browser, through an app designed for tablets (iOS and Android), or the desktop version (Mac and Windows).



Mentoring the Writing Process through Technology: A Critical Review of Organizational and Productivity Apps

Rebecca Long, Houston TX; Kristen Wallentinsen, Albuquerque NM


Although much discussion of music theory pedagogy focuses on the ever-present “undergraduate core,” music theorists also play an important role in guiding students of all levels through research and writing projects. To successfully complete a research project, a student must manage their time, organize their resources and ideas, and present their research in a coherent and convincing way. Strategies that facilitate these tasks are often not taught explicitly in the classroom, and students may find themselves struggling with these skills as they enter the writing process. New technological innovations in app development purport to make these tasks easier. Studies of apps like these in secondary and post-secondary education classrooms have corroborated anecdotal student findings that apps can support lower-level process skills, facilitate collaboration between both peers and mentors, and allow students to focus successfully on achievable goals and higher-order writing tasks (Ewoldt 2017; Reiterer et. al. 2012). But with hundreds of apps on the market, which apps are best suited for the writing process?

This poster provides a digest of apps designed to help researchers with four common writing issues: time management (e.g. Pomodoro, Forest), task management (e.g. Wunderlist, Trello), resource management (e.g. Mendeley, Zotero), and project visualization (e.g. Scrivener, Coggle). Among these categories, the authors critically evaluate five to seven apps using a rubric based on the app’s variety of features, intuitiveness of use, facility for collaboration, platform availability and price. Based on our findings, we will make recommendations regarding the “best-bet” apps in each category. By providing a comprehensive list of effective apps to both mentors and students, we will help to facilitate an open dialog regarding effective organizational and managerial habits, giving students valuable skills to succeed in their research and writing endeavors.




Fundamentals Wizard and the Class Album: Engaging Students with Technology In and Out of the Classroom

Matthew Heap, West Virginia University


Student engagement in theory is a key predictor of success in the core curriculum. Technology gives educators the tools to reach students inside and outside the classroom. My institution now embraces flipped-classroom pedagogy, so I propose pushing the boundaries. This paper will present techniques for student engagement that interface with technology

and provide statistics to show the effectiveness of this engagement. One technique is the gamification of theory topics. With video games becoming ubiquitous and the tools to make them becoming more available and user-friendly, the time is right for the gamification of music theory. The presenter will discuss ways in which simple programming languages (such as GameMaker 2) and slightly more complex (but free) ones (such as Unity) can be harnessed to create interactive experiences for theory students, and will demonstrate one such game, titled “Fundamentals Wizard.” The presenter will then offer statistics drawn from two groups of students—one who played theory games during the semester, and the other who had a more traditional experience—that will show the increased engagement and success of the former group. The paper will also discuss in-class activities, such as the creation of a class album. The class album is a collection of pieces created, curated, and performed by the students. As we write music together in class, in smaller groups, and individually for homework assignments and projects, the class decides which pieces are the best. Then we put tongue-in-cheek lyrics to them and record them using a simple iPhone set-up. This technique encourages students to always put out their best work, gives them something they can keep after the semester is over, and gives them a clear picture of how much they have progressed as a group and individuals, all of which help increase engagement.



A Trait-Based Search Application for Sight-Singing Instruction

Gary S. Karpinski, University of

Massachusetts Amherst


This poster presents software that treats an anthology for sight singing as a database from which instructors can select excerpts based on dozens of pedagogical criteria.

Many aural-skills instructors search sight-singing books looking for just the right excerpts by leafing through these volumes and scrutinizing the pages. Whereas one instructor might wish to begin a curriculum with only major-mode excerpts, another might want to include both major- and minor-mode melodies from the outset. One instructor might want to use nothing but stepwise melodies at the beginning, yet another might want to include skips from the first day. As curricula progress, many more such criteria come into play, including clef, key signature, tonic, mode, range, scale degrees, harmony, meter, and rhythm. As the number and sophistication of these features increase and interact, the difficulties in finding suitable excerpts increase rapidly. Performing such searches by paging through textbooks is inefficient and frequently frustrating.

Software can automate and systematize this process, allowing instructors to pinpoint excerpts from music literature that match specific criteria to meet a wide variety of pedagogical needs. In this way, an anthology of excerpts from music literature becomes a repository from which teachers can extract appropriate musical passages to illustrate specific musical features, drill particular musical skills, and serve as level-appropriate material for singing at sight, providing unprecedented flexibility in designing curricula, planning lessons, creating assignments, working with individual students, and developing test materials.

The poster summarizes the pedagogical principles that guided the design of this software, a brief examination of the process of developing the application as a product, and a demonstration of the product itself.



Does practice make perfect? The effects of ear fatigue on aural skills pedagogy

John Leupold, Washington College; Jennifer Johnstone, Kent State University


It is well-established that increasing practice leads to diminishing returns in learning and performance. Despite this, many ear-training students (and professors) spend large, continuous blocks of time repeating a single activity. This is particularly true of students who may spend an hour or more trying to hear the difference between structures at home (such as triads, intervals, etc.) only to reach a point where they feel like “everything starts to sound the same.” This phenomenon, during which the brain can no longer identify the differences in aural stimuli reliably, has been dubbed “ear fatigue.”

In the study, participants listened to triads that were controlled for volume and duration. Each triad was presented twice, at which point participants were asked to indicate whether the triad was major, minor, augmented, or diminished. Triads were played randomly from a group consisting of all possible roots spanning a three-octave range (A2-A5), totaling 148 training trails. We tracked participants’ accuracy and reaction time throughout training. These data will show whether ear fatigue occurs for all students and whether the effects, timing, and duration of ear fatigue are consistent from student to student or whether these vary widely. The results have important implications for in-class ear-training pedagogy as well as for in-home practice techniques.



Ear Training with Peer Performance Dictation

Matthew Hough, University of California, Berkeley


The development of listening skills is a crucial component of musical training at any level. Such development is often done through dictation, a process by which students put into notation elements of music that they hear. Through my recent work with college-level music students I have developed a new approach to dictation founded on the practice of peer performance: students performing music for each other in a guided, active listening environment. The introduction of this technique into a number of different theory and aural skills courses that I teach has resulted in improved student engagement and faster progress toward listening-specific learning outcomes including identification of pulse groupings and meter, tonic pitch recognition and relative relationships, and harmonic and cadential identification.

This poster presents evidence of this method's success, including practical and written exam outcomes, sample lesson plans with corresponding student performance recordings, and written feedback from students in several different courses. One section addresses challenges I have faced in attempting to incorporate peer performance into my classes and how I have worked to overcome these challenges. For example, how to make the process of peer-driven dictation equitable? How to choose suitable repertoire? How best to allocate time for these activities? How to relate this process to specific topics within a course? Another section presents conclusions about why this method has been effective and how I am now working to expand the role of peer performance in the teaching of theory and aural skills.



Assessing Critical Listening in a General Education Courses

Mitchell Ohriner, University of Denver


My university has a detailed general-education curriculum and seeks courses from faculty to fulfill specific learning outcomes. I teach two such courses: a 1000-level, 25-student class on rap music and writing seminar on music genre, preference, and personality. These courses balance improving critical listening with other concerns—improving prose writing, surveying hip-hop studies, reading social-science literature, etc. Assessing critical listening in such courses can be more difficult because of an absence of music literacy. In this poster presentation, I will share a variety of critical listening assessments and rubrics I have developed for these courses. For the hip-hop course, these include (1) rhythmic transcription of two rap excerpts in grid notation, (2) formal diagrams of three verses, and (3) a short paper comparing and contrasting the use of a sample in three different tracks. For the writing seminar, I include a paper that asks students to analyze a song in the context of the expectations of a genre, not unlike the “dialogic” approach to form undertaken to Hepokoski and Darcy’s approach to sonata form. Non-major students cannot complete these assignments without substantial conceptual and technological scaffolding, and thus I also detail how I use Audacity and Variations Audio Timeliner to give students a metric and formal framework. I share these assessments because as colleges and universities continue to revise general education curricula, it is increasingly important that music theorists offer courses that represent our discipline’s commitment to critical listening and, simultaneously, engage students in repertoires they know using techniques they can learn without prior training.



The Sing-and-Play

Samantha M. Inman, Stephen F. Austin State University


Performing musicians must be able to hear and adjust to other parts in real time. One valuable means of developing this skill is the sing-and-play, an activity which involves singing one line while accompanying on an instrument, usually the piano. Part I of this poster presents the merits of incorporating sing-and-play exercises into an aural skills curriculum. While keyboard proficiency limits difficulty, requiring the student to perform both parts builds skill in tuning, rhythm, and multitasking. Some of these goals could be accomplished through ensemble singing, another valuable activity. However, designing a task that can be performed alone encourages individual practice and, for the purposes of grading, eliminates confounds from a weak group member. Part II surveys material appropriate for sing-and-play assignments in a selection of published aural skills texts. Books incorporating many dedicated sing-and-play exercises include Music for Sight Singing (Benjamin et al.), A New Approach to Sight Singing (Berkowitz et al.), and Sight Singing Complete (Carr and Benward). Comparison of the contrasting designs and priorities of these texts will lead to a discussion of other resources with duets or ensemble pieces that can be adapted as sing-and-plays. Part III presents additional materials organized according to a typical undergraduate four-semester sequence in aural skills. These vary from simple scalar exercises to more challenging activities involving repertoire. While singing unaccompanied melodies remains a cornerstone of aural skills pedagogy, sing-and-play exercises more closely emulate the realities faced by performing musicians. Thus, the sing-and-play serves as a valuable tool in the development of practical aural skills.



Common-Practice Tonal Induction and the Modern Problem of Listening Mixolydianly

Stanley V. Kleppinger, University

of Nebraska–Lincoln


An essential issue when engaging with tonal music in any theory classroom is identifying tonic—whether listening to a performance or studying from a score, tonal induction is a crucial first step toward answering other questions about harmony and form. I have found, however, that when I ask my students (including graduate students) “what key are we in?” they sometimes struggle to answer accurately.

This poster explores a specific flavor of this confusion: students’ misidentification of ^5 as ^1. This is, in my experience, the most common tonal-induction error in common-practice contexts, and comes up frequently when a dominant scale degree or harmony is saliently emphasized. This granting of centric status to a particular pitch class by virtue of its perceptual stress is essential to experiencing modes in more modern contexts, to say nothing of experiencing pitch centers in non-diatonic environments. But—and here’s the problem—common-practice harmony hinges upon maintaining a distinction between emphasized pitch events and the tonic governing them. Students who transfer listening strategies from later, more-familiar music that doesn’t emulate this distinction (such as contemporary works composed for secondary-school ensembles, or current popular music) struggle when V is stressed and/or prolonged in the music of a Mozart or a Schubert. They interpret the tonality “mixolydianly,” perceptually treating that dominant as a tonic and thus arriving at perspectives fundamentally at odds with the music.

This poster explores and catalogs musical contexts susceptible to this “mixolydian error,” teases out the perceptual processes that lead to the error, and proposes strategies to help students recognize and avoid this potential pitfall. Understanding that salient emphasis of a pc is only one among several methods by which tonic is asserted in common-practice music is critical to keeping one’s tonal orientation in this harmonic style.



Weighed in the Balance But Not Wanting: Short Daily Review Games for Content Retention and Reinvigoration of Tired Students

Dana DeVlieger, University of Minnesota; Jennifer Shafer, University of Delaware


Theory instructors must balance presenting an enormous amount of material with providing opportunities for students to practice and master the concepts; these conflicting goals make class time a precious commodity. However, frequent short review games can increase students’ motivation and engagement, content retention, and self-assessment of learning. Two sample implementations are provided here.

The first implementation of this strategy took place over the course of a semester. Originally conceived as a way to energize students, each day started with a 5-minute team activity that involved students working at the board. Every teammate was required to complete part of the task and points were awarded for speed and accuracy and tracked throughout the semester. These activities fostered peer-to-peer learning as students who understood the material explained concepts to their teammates. They also gave students regular opportunities to practice new material.

           Another implementation spanned three weeks of a post-tonal unit, where a short series of review games was used to counteract attrition of set theory skills. Students worked in teams to complete each worksheet; scores were kept cumulatively, and the winning team won a prize. Students were also provided with take-home worksheets for review as needed; they could use the worksheets to practice skills that they found lacking as they worked in class, or to prepare for the larger assessment at the end of the term.

This strategy is easily modified to fit different content needs and time constraints. Somewhat paradoxically, holding a timed activity at the beginning of class can both increase motivation to arrive on time and serve to immediately focus the attention of all students as they jump into the review game. The mixture of mild competition and gamification makes these activities well received, and students indicate that they appreciate the sacrifice of time.



Game Design for the Music Theory Classroom

Douglas Buchanan, Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University; Patricia Burt, University of Delaware


Gamification has rapidly proliferated throughout our culture, from marketing Starbucks drinks to inspiring millions to get off the couch and exercise. Increasingly, online and in-person learning environments are incorporating games into individual lessons as well as overall course structures in order to motivate students, inspire interactive learning, and provide opportunities for multi-modal experimentation with newly acquired knowledge. For musicians in general, opportunities to bolster individual skill sets in an interactive environment serve as training for future roles as teachers, collaborators, and chamber and orchestral musicians. For theory students specifically, games offer the opportunity to practice with musical “rule sets” and experiment with this information in a fun and low-stress environment.

This poster demonstrates games developed for varying levels of the collegiate music theory classroom and introduces guidelines for incorporating games into the curricula, focusing on discussions of game design (including player agency and lenticular design), game types (such as focus on skill acquisition, skill refinement, and/or experimentation and synthesis), and student motivation.



Either/Neither/Both: Teaching Formal Ambiguity in the Undergraduate Theory Core

Aaron Grant, Missouri Western State University; Joan Huguet, Knox College


The theory core typically offers limited space for teaching large-scale forms; as such, it is all too tempting to choose the most straightforward and unambiguous examples to analyze with students. Such an attitude, however, too often leads students to conclude that common-practice music fits neatly into tidy boxes. The consequences of this can be severe: if students feel that they are merely mechanistically applying formal labels, learning formal types becomes not only uninteresting but also unmusical.

We would like to advocate for another approach, employing inquiry-based learning (Schaffer 2013) to explore the beautiful messiness of formally ambiguous pieces immediately after learning the textbook large forms. Ambiguous pieces allow students not only to apply form terminology, but also to critically engage with what it means, as well as to confront the idea that it might not always neatly align with actual music. For the instructor, however, this creates the challenge of identifying repertoire that meaningfully departs from yet engages with classical norms, while still being accessible to students who know only the basics of Formenlehre.

This poster demonstrates how we incorporate this principle into our own core classes at a small liberal arts college and a regional public university. We show two pieces that reinforce sonata-exposition terminology (Schubert Octet, D. 803/i) and sonata-rondo form (Beethoven Piano Sonata in F-Sharp Minor, Op. 78/ii). These pieces allow students to confront formal ambiguity in early Romantic form—something not always possible within the time constraints of a traditional sonata-form unit. In addition, we will provide a list of additional examples and suggestions for in-class discussion and homework assignments. A central tenet of our methodology is to encourage students to move beyond a taxonomic approach, acknowledging that words such as “either”, “neither”, and “both” have a place in formal analysis.



What are college students listening to and how “complex” is it?

Jennifer Beavers and the UTSA Music Theory Club—University of Texas at San Antonio


This poster presents findings from a two-part research project aimed at collecting everyday listening samples in a naturalistic setting. The project is conducted by a small music theory club (sponsored by a music theory faculty member) with the aim of applying learned theory techniques to everyday popular music. If students are listening to a wide variety of musical styles of varying complexities, what sorts of analytical tools must one develop in order to integrate such diversity? Our project is inspired by continued efforts to broaden repertoire lists within the standard two-year theory curriculum––as evidenced in pedagogy special sessions at national SMT and CMS conferences––and the inclusive outreach of the public music theory movement.

Part I presents the results of a survey (IRB# 19-070) in which 50 students actively listening to music at a four-year university campus were asked a series of questions related to their listening choices; this information will be provided in a supplemental handout at the conference. The poster will focus on results from Part II, which presents analytical results from randomly generated 30-second excerpts of songs gathered in Part I. The analysis is based on basic parameters established by the researchers to determine relative complexity. While complexity is a slippery characteristic of music to measure, it will be defined in this survey as the relative density between musical selections listened to by our participants limited to the following four categories: 1) harmony and harmonic rhythm, 2) rhythmic and metric patterns, 3) instrumental virtuosity, and 4) textural changes. An original rubric was established in order to operationally measure each parameter between analysts, which has been successfully tested in a pilot study. Student music surveys and the analysis of their musical selections are currently underway. Results will be presented at the Pedagogy into Practice conference.



Into the Wild with Haydn: a Piece-Driven Approach to Form and Analysis Pedagogy

Melissa Hoag, Oakland University


Over the years, I have structured my upper-level elective Form and Analysis class in a variety of ways. Originally, I organized the course by formal types, from small (phrases/periods) to large forms (rondo/sonata/concerto). Eventually, I felt acutely that the practice of choosing pieces to demonstrate specific forms was limiting. Because I was choosing pieces that clearly demonstrated formal types, students lacked the benefit of diving deeply into complete works (see Alegant, Engaging Students 2). Additionally, I worried that students were unprepared to venture “into the wild”—to function confidently when confronted with music not specifically chosen for pedagogical purposes. I sensed that, in prioritizing the teaching of concepts (in other words, things that have labels), the music’s authenticity was getting lost (see Wennerstrom, JMTP 22).

Several years ago, I re-engineered the course in two ways. First, I organized it chronologically, beginning with Baroque and ending with late Romantic music. Second, I focused as much as possible on complete works. Choosing complete works means that we confront music that can sometimes get messy, which allows the practice of analysis to be portrayed as an art form rather than an exercise in taxonomy. A chronological approach also facilitates reinforcement of music history and style characteristics.

This poster presents the details of this approach, focusing in particular on my teaching of Haydn’s op. 74/3 quartet. I will demonstrate how an in-depth study of this four-movement work allows discussion of striking inter-movement connections, phrase rhythm and metric dissonance, chromatic pitch relationships, and formal oddities.This poster also shows how my use of assessment (projects, assignments, exams) reflects a core learning outcome of the course: that students become intimately familiar with the works we study in class.



Teaching Chromaticism Through Billy Joel

Andrew Aziz, San Diego State University


       Billy Joel’s music offers several beautiful examples of advanced chromatic techniques to supplement nineteenth-century common practice literature; specifically, his songs “Honesty” and “Vienna” serve as companions to units on modal mixture and augmented triads. The chromaticism in these songs serves a similar function as in nineteenth-century art song, as chromatic inflections express the sentimentality parlayed by Joel’s narrators.

This poster presents modal mixture as a compositional (as in “Also Sprach”) and analytical tool (e.g., “♭VI”) and shows that Joel’s “Honesty” works in tandem with Schubert’s Moment Musicaux Op. 94/6, a famed example for its “promissory note” (Cone 1982) ♭^6 in A♭, F♭/E♮. “Honesty” provides a similar chromatic journey, this time involving ♭^6 in B♭, G♭/F♯. Underscoring the premise that humans are naturally duplicitous, a heavy dosage of modal mixture (D♭’s and G♭’s) in the piano’s intro sows the seeds for the upcoming texted narrative. Although the song at first establishes pure diatonicism, the G♭is then recast as a local leading tone F♯, tonicizing vi.

On Day 1 of my post-tonal theory survey, I use Joel’s “Vienna” as a prelude to Liszt’s “Nuages Gris,” a staple for introducing augmented triads in late nineteenth-century contexts. I first display how “Vienna”’s opening augmented triad B♭-D-F♯—due to its symmetry—seems functionally inert. Several bars later, Joel taps into the chord’s potential energy, resolving to an E♭major triad. This resolution illuminates the property of augmented triads as a semitone (or two) away from major or minor triads; and, that they serve as either 1) substitutes for functional triads—as displayed in “Nuages Gris”—or 2) agents for triadic resolution. Finally, I show how the F♯in “Vienna”’s augmented triad, too, sows a promissory ♭^6; just as “Vienna (inevitably) waits,” so does modal mixture.



Hunting for Motives in Duke Ellington's The Tattooed Bride

Darren LaCour, Washington University


What if the best way to introduce our undergraduate students to the idea of a musical motive was not a textbook definition or an audio clip and score of the first movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, but instead an extended look at a piece from one of the successful American composers of the twentieth century? In The Tattooed Bride, an eleven-minute piece originally performed by his orchestra at Carnegie Hall and issued on one of the first 12-inch jazz LPs in 1950, Duke Ellington develops a simple and aurally identifiable motive throughout—a fact often mentioned in Ellington scholarship, but rarely (if ever!) in music theory texts. This poster outlines a process by which students can engage with this music and productively learn concepts typically associated with European classical music. This example also provides an opportunity to discuss issues bigger than "the music itself" in the theory classroom, because Ellington's motivic exercise was likely prompted by the savage reaction critics leveled against his ambitious tone poem Black, Brown, and Beige several years prior. In The Tattooed Bride, Ellington strove for "motivic unity" and "formal coherence," workshopping the technique so he could re-apply it to his later programmatic work Harlem.



Teaching timbre: a practical plan for including timbre in the undergraduate post-tonal theory classroom

Nora Engebretsen, Bowling Green State University


Despite widespread recognition of timbre’s importance to musical experience and of its increasing structural significance in repertoire of the later-20th and 21st centuries, a pedagogy of timbre remains largely undeveloped. Several standard undergraduate theory texts neglect timbral organization altogether or mention it only in passing; those that do discuss it in some detail (e.g., Pearsall, Kostka) survey timbral techniques, such as Klangfarbenmelodie, “new sounds” associated with extended playing techniques, FM and additive synthesis, etc., but provide little guidance as to how engagements with timbre might contribute to broader analytical interpretations. This spotty treatment of timbre reflects a lack of a unified methodological approach to its analysis, as well as pedagogical challenges including: the need to access information not specifically encoded in musical notation; potentially steep learning curves (for faculty and students alike) related to sounds’ acoustical attributes, to sound processing techniques, and/or to recent work connecting timbre to theories of narrative and embodiment; and very practical concerns about how to design realistic, meaningful, and assessable assignments. This poster offers a pragmatic approach to introducing students to the analysis of timbre in post-tonal repertoire, drawing upon existing work by authors including Blake, Cogan and Escot, Cox, Leydon, Lochhead, Rifkin, Siegel, Slawson, and Smalley. Original contributions include synthesis and scaling of these authors’ works to suit undergraduates’ needs, choice of suitable repertoire, model analyses, and assignments. Learning outcomes targeted are development of: 1) awareness of and vocabulary for describing timbral attributes beyond source identification; 2) ability to understand and explain the experience of sound in relation to embodiment; and 3) understanding how timbral relationships structure musical narratives. Findings are presented in the form of four lesson plans, conceived as self-contained modules to be mixed and matched as desired. Each plan suggests additional repertoire to support expansion, as well as possible assessments.



How to “PASS” Core Theory Exams

Daisy Tam, Toronto, Ontario


In students’ core theory exams, common objective writing errors include faulty parallels, neglect of accidentals, unresolved sevenths, and missed sequences. In my presentation, I will share a chart that students and instructors could use in a review class which summarizes these errors in a concise manner. In my chart, I group the four general errors by using the acronym “PASS” (Parallels, Accidentals, Sevenths, and Sequences) and highlight the questions and scenarios where they occur in a sample exam. By using this “PASS” chart, my objective is to demonstrate to students in a memorable way that they are more likely to be successful on their exams and “PASS” if they avoid writing faulty parallels, remember to apply accidentals, resolve the seventh of a chord properly, and recognize sequences. For instructors, they could use the chart to survey the common errors to guide them to create review exercises that are tailored to help students to improve on their work. Or, the chart could guide them to create exam questions that target the students’ mastery of these issues at the end of a course. Also, I will show how users could take this chart and customize it according to their studying and teaching needs, and extend it to incorporate harmonic analysis questions and scenarios.



Improving Freshmen Part-writing Through Parsimonious Voice-leading

Danny Beard, University of Southern Mississippi


This poster demonstrates a tool—the Parsimonious Voice-leading Index (PVI)—that can improve scores on freshmen part-writing exercises by over 3 points.

Parsimonious voice-leading is a term used by Neo-Riemannian theorists to describe harmonic transformations created by stepwise motion. Stepwise and common tone connections provide the smoothest path for voice-leading, and when lacking, often becomes the root cause for part-writing errors. Unnecessary leaps lead to a variety of errors that are not detected by the students.

The PVI is calculated by summing the generic pitch intervals contained within each of the soprano, alto and tenor voices. The instructor provides a target value based on a correct solution using as much parsimonious voice-leading as possible with each assignment. If a student’s work returns the same PVI, then the student has reasonable confidence the exercise will be correct. If the PVI is not the same, then the exercise possibly has errors that should be corrected prior to grading. PVI will not directly show the students the errors, but a close inspection of the pitch intervals should reveal the location of potential errors. Classroom research was conducted with second semester freshmen music students (experimental group, n=12, control group, n=21.) The experimental group was taught to use PVI. Four Roman numeral exercises were realized, with the experimental group being asked to use PVI to improve their part-writing. The experimental group scored an average of 3.2 points higher than the control group. Possibly more important, 58% (11 of 19 exercises) in the experimental group showed improvement in grade after employing PVI to detect and correct errors.



Where doesn’t this work? Realizing Rules Literally as a Devil’s Advocate in Teaching Theory

Mark Gotham, Cornell University


Music theory courses often focus on sets of rules at the outset, only to back-pedal later (sometimes apologetically) to deal with exceptions. What if those exceptions could be integrated from the outset without undue cognitive load? Wouldn’t this allow students to engage with the real ontological status of those rules as more descriptive than generative, and to assess for themselves whether, to what extent, and in which contexts they are useful. Mightn’t this help students to build a more nuanced understanding of the repertoire in the process, and even develop important skills in metacognition?

This poster sets out a process for implementing music theoretic rules ultra-literally to generate ‘devil’s advocate’ scores that clarify the consequences of those rules, and thereby illuminate both the status of the rules and the nature of the works they seek to describe. This useful educative role for algorithmically generated material is sometimes exploited in the (naturally sympathetic) context of algorithmic composition (Brown 2018), but extremely rare in music theory despite the ubiquity of de facto algorithms.

To show how this can work in the classroom, the process is illustrated with examples for teaching harmony: the harmonic reduction of an existing score, and the harmonization of a tune ab initio. We present algorithms based on commonly invoked rules (in layman terms which would be suitable for teaching), evaluate the intermediary scores they generate, and return to see whether or not we can meaningfully improve the algorithm. This poster presents a new website which allows teachers to generate such scores, tailored to their classes’ requirements, and to download them for free.


Brown, A. 2018. ‘Algorithms and Computation in Music Education’ in Dean & McLean eds. The Oxford Handbook of Algorithmic Music (Oxford Handbooks).




Teaching Music with Music

David Newman, James Madison University


Music has long been used as an instructional method, especially to teach young children the alphabet, body parts, and other basic information about life. Songs can both aid in the retention of concepts, and make the acquisition and memorization of facts and vocabulary more palatable. Songs have been routinely used for instruction and engagement in educational programming on public television, in shows like Sesame Street, Electric Company, and Read Between the Lions, and notably on network television in the popular Schoolhouse Rock series. Increasingly, they are also being used to help teach more advanced subjects and target older students.

The theory and vocabulary of music can also be taught through songs, which have the potential to present material in a relevant context and with embedded mnemonic devices. Incorporating them into instruction not only holds the promise of improving understanding and retention, but also the possibility of making theory more fun and accessible. Very few such songs exist, but those that do are worth noting, and opportunities for writing new ones should be explored.

This poster reviews existing repertoire designed to teach music theory concepts, including works of my own, to deconstruct them in a way that clarifies their pedagogical value, and to inspire more contributions to the genre.



Toward a More Unified Curriculum: Conversations to Have with your Group Piano Faculty

Laurel Larsen, Douglas O’Grady—Western Connecticut State University


All too often, there is a disconnect between music theory and class piano curricula. This poster will outline techniques for aligning keyboard pedagogical practice with theory topics and competencies. Class piano offers a unique opportunity to reinforce and support theory and sight singing courses. By making simple changes to standard keyboard exercises, all three areas benefit from the music student’s ability to transfer skills. Topics addressed will include freshman-level exercises such as fluency in fundamentals, proper use of inversions, especially second-inversion triads, using the phrase model for construction of harmonization schema, and reinforcement of sight singing skills, especially regarding chordal skips. The presenters will discuss collaboration between faculty in the three areas and provide examples of exercises that strengthen skills, drawing on more than 20 years of classroom experience in theory, sight singing, and piano, as well as commonly-used theory and group piano texts.



An Interdisciplinary Approach to Music Theory: Creating Associative Networks through the use of Laboratory Experiences

Kate Sekula, University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma


Using Diane Halpern’s research for critical thinking acquisition, I will demonstrate in this poster how the incorporation of laboratory experiences in aural skills can create stronger associative networks which aid students in memory recall and transfer of training in both aural skills and music theory. The poster presents two physics labs which can be easily completed in the aural skills classroom: 1) using a monochord to learn about division of the octave and 2) using a cellphone to visualize how soundwaves reach the inner ear and are interpreted by the brain. Through the completion of these lab experiences, students form episodic memory which, when combined with semantic and procedural memory (the types of memory we often require of our students), creates stronger associative networks. Stronger associative networks generate reliable long-term memory. The basic knowledge learned during the labs can be applied to future topics such as the harmonic series, the generation of intervals, the circle of fifths, scales, key signatures, harmonies built from the superposition of thirds, and hearing health. The poster shows complete lesson plans for each lab as well as an associative network handout for visualizing how the two labs can branch out to topics of music, history, biology, mathematics, psychology, and physics.



Meaningful Music: Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy in the Music Theory Classroom

Adam J. Kolek, Rowan University


This poster describes how I have applied principles of Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy (CSP) into assignments in my Theory I classes. There is increasing energy, reflected in initiatives of the College Music Society and the Society for Music Theory, to revise the music program to explicitly address diversity and inclusivity. The need for such revision is especially apparent in the traditional music theory curriculum, which is grounded nearly exclusively in European and American music and perspectives. CSP can be an effective way to guide this revision. CSP is an asset pedagogy that challenges the idea of education as assimilation and seeks to form deep connections between course material and a student’s cultural knowledge. CSP emphasizes student-directed learning, inclusive classroom spaces, and the exploration of student identity and experience.

           Because my Theory I students include both traditional majors and music industry students, it is critical that I find ways to value diverse musical backgrounds and make course material relevant to all. Using CSP I have designed “Meaningful Music” assignments that have become a key component of my Theory I curriculum. In these assignments, students choose songs and other works that they are familiar with and analyze how they musically express extra-musical themes. In their analyses, students discuss musical aspects from both traditional western theory (key, harmony, form) and from outside of it (timbre, production, feel). Through the assignments the class together creates a body of music theory knowledge. The assignments culminate in a project where students draw upon this knowledge to compose a musical work. These assignments have successfully diversified the music and musical elements discussed in the Theory I class, encouraged musical expression outside of the western art style, and connected course material to diverse musical experiences.



Finding Metaphor in Music: The Impact of Different Analyses on Musical Perception

Alex Sallade, University of Delaware


The role of analysis in the performance of music has been a popular topic among theorists in recent years. While theorists such as Wallace Berry and Eugene Narmour argue that a correct performance must develop from thorough analysis, others, including Cynthia Folio and Patrick McCreless, place significant value on a performer’s intuitive expression. Typically, studies in performance and analysis utilize recordings of professional musicians, without considering their learning process. As supplemental material to a degree in music, it is assumed that theory courses should be constructive towards any music student’s professional goals, including future performers. The goal of this project was to better understand the ways in which a theory-based or metaphor-based analysis may influence a student musician’s learning process. Through a two-part experiment, students’ musical understanding was examined as they approached pieces unknown to them. Each half of the experiment involved sight-reading, individual practice, and three rehearsals. Data was collected through reflection forms.

The musicians learned a quintet by Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) without analysis, historical knowledge, or access to recordings. Over the course of three rehearsals, theoretical and contextual information was provided in order to see what influence, if any, it would have on the quintet’s learning process. Students were asked to evaluate the influence that theoretical analysis had on their practice, rehearsals, and interpretation.

The group then learned a quintet by Hans Huber (1852-1921), but this time context and analysis were provided in advance. Programmatic material in the form of a fictional story (backed by theoretical analysis) was created to fit this piece. The musicians believed the story to be Huber’s original intent and were heavily impacted by its literary direction. The results of this study suggest that different types of analysis influence musical understanding in contrasting ways: theoretical information increasing efficiency, and a metaphorical framework encouraging expression.



Cultivating Curiosity: Questions, Relevance, and Focus in the Theory Classroom

Philip Duker, University of Delaware


What are the most important lessons that students should learn as they progress through the music theory curriculum? While there are many good answers to this question and they will likely differ between institutions, this poster will argue that one of the overall curricular goals should be to foster curiosity in our students. Students should ask meaningful and probing questions about pieces that are relevant to them. They should query the music they are hearing and performing, even if they do not yet have the tools to answer the questions they develop. Arguably, this impulse to be curious about their music will continue to serve them long after they have forgotten some of the finer details of our courses.

There is evidence that an environment of curiosity promotes better retention and learning in general (Gruber, et al. 2014; Kidd and Hayden 2015). While there are a number of theoretical models that capture aspects of curiosity (most from the burgeoning discipline of positive psychology), Kashdan, et al. (2018) found that there are five personality traits (what they called dimensions) that help determine how a person expresses curiosity. This poster represents each of these dimensions, showing how teachers can create a classroom environment that promotes curiosity in light of each trait.

The last section will give three examples of what assignments and activities in the theory classroom this might look like. Even first-year students with limited notational fluency can explore sophisticated questions (i.e. more challenging activities on Bloom’s taxonomy) that show them the necessity of learning notation while also challenging them to think about their music in new ways. If we can plant the seeds of curiosity early in the core, then by the time our students finish, we will have set them up with strong habits to lead rich musical lives.