Engaging Students: Essays in Music Pedagogy, vol. 6

Table of Contents


Philip Duker, Bryn Hughes, Anna Gawboy, and Meghan Naxer

Dear Readers,

We are excited to bring you the latest volume of Engaging Students and trust that you will find that it is filled with wonderful essays that will stimulate and inspire you on how to better connect with your students and set up transformational learning spaces. In keeping with past journals, we have two broad groups of essays dividing into those that are somewhat philosophical and those that are more focused on practice (though there are often overlaps in both of these broad categories).

In the first essay in our Philosophy group, Bruno Alcalde describes a course featuring weekly composition assignments in popular music organized around a weekly cycle. He shows how this can be an effective way of getting students involved in experiential learning and many of the ideas he discusses could be adapted to other courses. While we might not always enjoy when are students are arguing with us, Damien Blättler shows how this impulse can be harnessed and focused into an academic argument. His essay offers ideas that will surely liven up the results you get when you next assign writing to your students. The role of Part-writing in theory classes has stimulated many discussions in the past few years (Kulma and Naxer 2014, Richards 2015). Timothy Chenette has added to this discourse by re-envisioning both the content and the role that this topic can play in our courses. If nothing else, you will want to read this to see how your students can develop super powers. From interactive handouts to spiral coverage, Jennifer Shafer provides wonderful insight into how to scaffold activities and learning for your students. These effective pedagogical tips would be applicable in many contexts and the examples she provides are great models that could be adapted to many topics. Bringing in examples of music from underrepresented groups is a common goal among many progressive pedagogues and Cara Stroud’s essay will undoubtedly help you achieve that goal. By both walking through common issues faced by instructors, but also providing links to various resources and collections of pieces, this is a timely essay that will no doubt be very useful to many.

Jenine Brown’s essay on sonata form analysis without a score leads off the group of essays focused on classroom techniques and activities. She provides a well thought out and scaffolded approach to assessing how well students track the formal sections of a piece in sonata form. For those instructors hoping to engage repertoire outside the classical cannon, Trevor de Clercq offers a wonderful assignment in re-harmonizing melodies in popular music. De Clercq illustrates his points with numerous sound files that will inspire you and your students to stretch the standard harmonic palette of many pop songs. While model composition is a common activity in the core curriculum, Gilad Rabinovitch and Martin Norgaard show how adding improvisation exercises can help bridge written and aural skills. They discuss examples of student work and provide suggestions on how to make this activity most impactful and meaningful for students. If you are looking for new ways to help engage your students in more lively discussions about music, Jennifer Salamone’s essay on focused freewriting (and pre-class freewriting) would be an excellent addition to your reading list. This technique can improve how students communicate about music, and also provides a wonderful means of unpacking the relationship between analytical details and the larger dimensions and impact of a piece. Putting details together to arrive at a bigger picture is also a theme in Reba Wissner’s essay on using gallery walks in music history classes. Wissner describes how her students take on the role of a musicologist and construct their own narratives and meaning through contact with various sources and resources. If you’ve ever thought about experimenting with timelines in your classes, then you’ll want to check out Brent Yorgason’s article on a multitude of ways to effectively use this tool. Yorgason provides copious models and examples of effective usage from group work in class, to take home assignments; he even discusses an example rubric and some tips to speed up grading time. Taken as a whole, this volume offers a wonderful breadth of resources that will invigorate your approach to teaching.

With volume 6, Engaging Students introduced a blind peer-review stage to the acceptance process. Despite some challenges meshing this model with our open peer-collaboration process, it was overall a success and has increased the selectivity of the journal. We hope you agree and that you enjoy the volume!

All best,

Phil, Bryn, Anna, and Meghan

Co-editors Vol. 6