Incorporating Popular Music in Teaching: Ideas for the Non-Expert

Timothy K. Chenette

Music theory instructors who center their teaching around common-practice music often do so because they believe this repertoire helps students learn broadly applicable skills. But incorporating some (broadly defined) popular music may help students make connections to other repertoires, form more robust and accurate knowledge structures, and exercise creativity. This article is addressed to instructors who do not feel expert in popular music who still want to engage these benefits. Such instructors can remove from themselves some of the burden of claiming expertise they do not feel they have and learning new repertoire every year in order to stay current by giving their students greater degrees of agency. These range from alternative assignments, which require more expertise on the part of the instructor, to student involvement in the priorities and emphases of a class, which opens up the class to the full range of student ideas and preferences.