Joe Argentino, Associate Professor of Music Theory, Memorial University and St John's Newfoundland:
Positive aspects of teaching over Zoom: first year core theory, post tonal music, a theory composition course and first year aural skills. A survey to all music students at the end of the fall semester indicated that students preferred Zoom over Webex. They preferred synchronous classes recorded and then uploaded to a place like Brightspace. Students liked Zoom breakout rooms and communication via the private chat function.
Dr. Argentino taught synchronously I recorded and posted all of his lectures on Brightspace. Students appreciated being able to review lecture content on their own time.
The asynchronous model wasn't as popular. Breakout rooms were a fabulous teaching resource, similar to what many do in our classrooms when students work in individual groups, three to five students in a room, to complete a particular task. One member of the group would email the group’s work, and the group’s work would be taken up anonymously as a class, or compiled in a PowerPoint. Students learned from one another and received immediate feedback.
Breakout rooms were especially valuable for sight singing classes, but also provided students with much needed social interaction. The private chat function enabled shy students to ask questions privately and, the teacher to get immediate feedback from students.
The whiteboard function would behave like a blackboard in a regular classroom; it provides an intimate setting for theory lectures. I would frequently post handouts or slides prior to class and then I would complete the handout, post it online and also post recordings.
Screen sharing Finale and using PowerPoint helped my understanding. The snowy climate in St John's Newfoundland Canada means it's not unusual to miss one to two weeks of classes in the winter term due to snow closures. This past winter term I didn't have to cancel any classes at all. The largest drawback was the lack of singing, especially for chorales.
Miriam Piilonen, University of Massachusetts, Amherst:
My initial attitude toward online teaching was one of apprehension. Over time I came to see many benefits to the experience of online teaching. I asked myself two questions. 1. what were some of the magical communal and radical things we were able to pull off by virtue of being stuck at home and needing to use the Internet in new ways? And 2. how can we carry forward the positive aspects of this experience, when we eventually and necessarily move back to in person learning?
Wes developed new technological competencies, collaboratively making use of texts such as Zoom, as well as video sharing platforms like vimeo and YouTube, digital audio workstations like Ableton and FL studio, streaming services, and making space to interrogate the limits of these technologies and Apps for creative and educational work.
The first example is something I carried over from my in person teaching: track of the day. Students bring tracks they love, a piece they've performed, or would like to perform. Each day I play one of their tracks, as they arrive. I invite the students who chose that track to say a few words about their choice. The track of the day ritual helps set the mood of the class, and shows students that the classroom is a community built around shared tastes and ideas.
The second example is something that I call up close and personal learning: looking at musical scores, analyzing song lyrics or practicing using digital audio workstations. Teaching digital audio workstation stations on Zoom is kind of a dream come true, because you can really get up close and personal. And Zoom in general is great for close reading, deep listening and slow thinking. It offers many accessibility benefits: closed captioning, chat functions, polling, and reactions, and as a result, I saw increased participation in areas that involve this kind of sustained focus.
The third example is more flexible and open ended assignments, which led to some surprising discoveries about their interests. One student created a drum cover of a Bruno Mars song to demonstrate some of the music theoretical points that he made in his research paper, to embody what he learned and experiment within it.
My last example is an educational and community building event called CFology music edition. And this was part of an ongoing effort to build a long term relationship between the five colleges community where I work in Western Massachusetts and the Chicago footwork scene in Illinois. This spring we collaborated with Chicago footworkology, an organization created by Chicago footwork dancer King Charles. We wanted to offer the first ever online Chicago footwork music camp with over 150 participants from over 20 different countries, led by three of the originators of Chicago footwork. We also hosted a beat battle.
These kinds of international connections and experiences would have been—from a technological perspective —implausible a year and a half ago. They are due in large part to the ingenuity of the artists, teachers and students who put their time and energy into learning to use Zoom in this way.
I'd like to close with a quote from my students Simon Chang. “Teaching on Zoom was not a mistake.” Teaching music theory online has enabled students like Simon to have a uniquely positive learning experience.
Jenn Salamone, Visiting Assistant Professor, Oberlin College Conservatory, Assistant Professor, Florida Gulf Coast University:
I am going to focus on two elements of Zoom teaching that I utilized extensively this past year: the chat and the breakout rooms. I found that there was a specific demographic of my students who utilize the chat—specifically direct messaging me extensively. We have a large contingent of non-native English speakers at Oberlin. When we were in real space together, oftentimes they were nervous about using English in front of their peers, and that would lead them to talk to me privately afterwards.
When we pivoted to remote instruction and using Zoom I found that the students would message me using the chat in real time. And I could sort of seamlessly work the answer into what I was doing in the moment and address those concerns in real time. I found that I also got a much more diverse classroom discussion; shy students were more likely to jump into the chat during our classroom discussions.
The other feature that I use a lot was the breakout room feature. I found that coupling a breakout room with a Google Doc was a great mediation between those two things. When I was getting ready for class and preparing my lesson plan, I would think up two or three prompts that I would want each the breakout rooms to consider. I would put them in the Google Doc and in the response area, broken up by room number. The students would get the link in the chat to the Google Doc. When I sent them off into breakout rooms they would populate that Google Doc. I could also watch what was going on, and comment back to them in real time, in a different font color. We could respond in real time, and I could see what was going on in all of these small groups.
Then we would come back to the large class and I find things we could elaborate on as a large group. The combination of the breakout room and the Google Doc helped enrich that experience for everyone.
Paula Telesco, Associate Professor at University of Massachusetts, Lowell:
I'm focusing on a couple of theory success stories. One of the best tools, I discovered was the Zoom annotate tool. Students annotations could be seen by everyone in class, including me. This was a lifesaver and substituted for the in class experience of having students come up to the board.
So, for example, I could project several blank staves from a PDF from Noteflight on my iPad and have several students at a time notate an example on individual staves. Their names show up as an annotation so I know who is note-taking. I could project a score and ask students to find examples of something and circle it, or project their textbook as a PDF and have them notate answers to exercises. I hope to be able to incorporate this somehow into in person teaching when we resume.
Another thing that worked well as a substitute for having students come to the board was the iPad program Linea sketch. It's templates include manuscript paper, graph paper and a whiteboard, so I could notate things in advance with an apple pencil and share them. The graph paper works great for proto-notation exercises. Or to save time, I would write some of the proto-notation patterns and I would number them and the students could either write the proto notation the number of the pattern.
As for the most challenging things, almost everything took more time, especially early on. Because I was switching back and forth between sharing different screens or windows or tabs. I rearranged the order of my class presentation whenever possible to limit the number of times I would have to switch tabs or screens. I would notate in advance everything that I would normally have put on the blackboard. As I was sharing that browser window, I could go from tab to tab and not have to do a new share (in chrome, a PDF or a PNG file). If you just have one or two PowerPoint slides you can convert them to a PDF and open them in the same way.
To get the best sound when playing a video you click on the shared sound and optimize for video clip at the bottom of the Zoom share screen. These options are also available in the window that opens when you click on the more button in the share screen bar. If you want to talk over a video as you might do in a classroom I discovered that I must use a headset and talk into the microphone.
Ciro Scotto, Associate Professor, Ohio University:
First, I have to say that I did not teach on Zoom I taught in Teams. The university did not support Zoom. The recording features in Teams made it very easy to integrate with blackboard and to put all my lectures immediately up in multiple places for the students.
I would like to talk about the idea of the studio. I do have quite a bit of experience with teaching online in the ‘90s over a closed circuit TV, and I built websites for those classes.
Our university said you can't ask students to be on camera. So that made me think that I have to run this like it's a radio show or a TV show; I can't really expect interaction from them, so I started to set up everything along those lines.
One thing that the Mac can do when you want to set up a lot are multiple desktops. I would put Sibelius, Logic, other kinds of programs all across into these various desktops, and all I have to do is immediately click and I could move to one of those desktops.
This is a program that integrates your entire studio into one driver that will be sent to Teams or Zoom. My audio interface is Logic Pro, this is Apple music Quicktime player, Reaper, Safari. And Sibelius and all the audio from those programs are routed to one driver and then that driver is selected in Teams or in Zoom, so anything that I'm playing, like keyboard or anything else, will sound as if your computer is generating it so there will be no degradation in the audio.
For piano I would set up in Logic. I could use a plugin. I would have a grand piano plugged into this, that would sound through Teams, then another desktop here. I taught a class on tonality and rock music, so I had guitars and amplifiers hooked right into the audio system. I also used Sibelius; this is a class where we were learning some chords. I used this as a blackboard and it moves back and forth, or obviously used PowerPoint presentations and so forth seamlessly, but the ability to move in through the desktops was very important in keeping things flowing and moving.
I'll show you two other programs. A really great program for making graphs is called Eazydraw. I could use that for drawing things pertaining mainly to form in post tonal music. If you have an iPad, you can load Teams on to the iPad as well. I would join the meeting in two ways: through my regular computer and through my iPad. I would turn on screen sharing in my iPad, use my apple pencil and notate things spontaneously that the students would see on their screens. I could also flip through the desktop so they can see which way I was going or move through the desktops to different locations.
I'd have my PowerPoints on one desktop, musical notation examples, all on separate desktops, and I could very fluidly move through each of these programs. One laptop is basically very limiting and your screen can get cluttered, so this would help keep everything focused on the tasks that you wanted to do at the moment.
Asynchronous vs Synchronous Instruction Panel
Dr. Timothy Francis, Associate Professor and Department Chair, Dixie State University:
As you know, one day, I was teaching in class and the next day, conveniently spring break, we were told to go remote. In that spring I was in the process of teaching a second semester ear-training class. When we went remote, I actually went completely asynchronous. In the ear-training classes, I had already been doing a mixture of individual appointments with each student and online submission of recordings for the singing part of the class. I had assigned a prepared melody that I had them record and present or share with me through our LMS, so when we went remote I just stopped the in-person appointments. This put a little bit more grade weight on each recording but made it easier for students to manage. I also had in-class dictation; some that was done online and submitted through the LMS.
I did not teach the follow-up class in the fall, but I did have the same group in this spring, for their fourth semester, in a face-to-face class with careful mask and distancing protocols the whole school year. During the summer last year I taught a pickup section of second semester ear training, partially synchronous, partially asynchronous. I met with the students on Google Meet once a week for six weeks via video for ear training classes, because they can't very well sing as a group. For that you have to set up extra software with each student. I usually sang to them over the video, and provided recordings of me singing the melodies through the LMS so that they can sing along with those recordings. I was able to restart the individual appointments one-on-one appointments, which were live, and those actually worked really well asynchronous because they didn't have to sing with the group.
The dictation I put out on recordings on the learning management system; we did some of it in the video classes. I would give them the starting point, either by recording or keyboard . They also had asynchronous things that they could work on. Those summer kids also joined the same cohort that I had taught in the spring.
The individual singing works great with synchronous video. The group singing was really awkward. The video version of an ear training class, the prepared melodies, were a really good tool. But at the same time it's a prepared, practice ability, not a sight-singing ability. Dictation worked okay asynchronously. To see the students’ work in progress takes a little bit more work, to find a way to put their progress on video.
Samantha Inman, Stephen F. Austin State University:
Hello everyone. I teach at Stephen F. Austin State University, and today my little lightning talk is called hybrid instruction music theory: balancing synchronous and asynchronous modes. In a typical semester my load mixes face-to-face undergraduate classes with maybe one face-to-face graduate class and then one or more 100% online graduate classes.
In the pandemic semester, I decided to try teaching the undergraduate courses as hybrid courses: one third of the course was live streamed and the other two thirds of the classroom completely asynchronous online components. My graduate courses I taught 100% online asynchronous courses. Today I’m going to talk about my hybrid courses: Aural Skills three and Form and Analysis; one of these worked much better than the other.
I used Zoom to introduce the main concepts, and then we would do some dictation practice and some singing, but I put the students in breakout rooms, so they could take turns sight singing for each other’s, so they got that peer to peer interaction. The next chunk of the week was devoted to asynchronous performance skills; I would give the students detailed practice guides and they had to record a series of assignments on short videos in our learning management system. And then the end of the week was again asynchronous, focused on dictation. I would give them a number of short assignments in Auralia and they could repeat them for a better grade. So that way, it was a formative exercise, not just an assessment at the end.
For form, the beginning of the week was asynchronous; I started them out with an introductory video about 15 minutes in length, followed by a quiz designed to motivate the students to actually watch the video. Wednesday was the synchronous part of the class over Zoom; we would explore more complex repertoire = building on the topic already introduced earlier in the week. I would combine some lecture with the chat feature and the breakout rooms. The back half of half of the class oftentimes would have some sort of guided listening: an annotated score or a form diagram, followed by an extensive homework assignment that tied together the work for the entire week.
What these two have in common is that one-third of the instruction was done synchronously, the other two-thirds was done asynchronously. The strength of this particular course design is interaction with the instructor, interaction with the content, and interaction with peers. It is easy to use simple and repetitive tasks in the asynchronous time, similar to a flipped course model. On my evaluation, some of the students really liked the Zoom portion of the class, and other students really liked the instructional videos at the beginning of the week, and some of them really liked the more cut-and-dried straightforward additional examples of the end of the week.
I did find it much more difficult to include ensemble singing. I found that aural skills courses are the hardest to teach in this format, but the other theory courses can be delivered really effectively in the live stream online hybrid.
Jason Jedlicka, Eastern Illinois University:
I was on the music theory faculty at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and an adjunct faculty, totally remote, at Eastern Illinois University. I was teaching theory, 2, 3 and 4, so I made it totally asynchronous. I made prerecorded videos introducing each topic, and then I would record those on my laptop with my notation software, in this case I used Sibelius. They also had links to handouts and audio recordings in LMS, which was very effective. I made it a point to have prerecorded videos short.
And I gave them links to the other recordings and made some practice melodic patterns so they felt secure in that. The cons of course, you cannot monitor student engagement, aside from going into the LMS and looking at the number of views on a given video. And the students were not as forthcoming with questions as they were in my synchronous environment. The synchronous teaching was comprehensive musicianship at Eastern Illinois University, focused on harmonizing unfigured basses and melodies and Sonata form. The iPad I found was an indispensable tool for me, I used an App called Notability; some folks here mentioned Goodnotes, that's also good but with Notability I was able to compartmentalize everything by week. You cannot sightsing in real time, as a group. I would give them pitch, and then I would conduct, and then I would have them conduct and then sing by themselves, it was pretty much just the honor system. And I also use Microsoft Teams; you can't share audio through the Mac with that, but you can't share the audio through Zoom.
John King, University of Oregon:
I am a graduate student, I’m going to give you feedback on what is the best metrics for the contents of a Zoom class, as well as a student and instructor. I witness the struggle as open book tests become the norm and the honor system is continually being extended. This live lecture will discuss how the classes, that I serve as a graduate instructor for have accommodated this shift from synchronous to asynchronous teaching.
A particular of those strategies that the best impact on student participation, nonetheless, as a producer as a TA my choice is often not the native isolation. I recorded 15 to 20 minute videos. In terms of homework classwork, students uploaded performance video and dictation assignments; canvas administered dictation quizzes made individual assessment easy. Student leadership over the course is important. All the questions were written to maximize participation, such as graded discussion boards, synchronous lectures and an emphasis on feedback. I felt like the wiki feedback and sponsoring competitions; worked well; my feedback is nearly exclusively error checking and there's always room to comment positively on the students. This class assumes that students can commit to a synchronous schedule.
The power of synchronous presentation is its ability to give immediate feedback and better ability to supervise the students’ work ethics.
Russ Knight, Scripps College:
I’m going to rant about something that actually worked when I expected it to not work. I taught both synchronous and asynchronous courses; my “ear training” course was scheduled as synchronous but we only met one time per week. So I reserved that meeting time to explore cognitive-oriented topics, how to approach dictation, noticing long-range connections and diatonic melodies, and immediate structures, for example, to help in sight-singing approaches.
The outside class assessments are delivered using various open source and drill-oriented assignments, as well as an actual, regretfully paid, membership to Toned Ear. I did love it a lot at first, but I will not do it again in the future, I believe that that is redundant. The sight-singing not surprisingly, was a beast, so I fell back on a series of duets. The students were required to record one melody then, while listening to that melody in a headset, recorded the second voice. Then they sent me both melodies as independent recordings to our LMS, and they were in pretty good quality. It's a good workaround to assessing active listening skills. In an online setting it was more successful than assigning it live. I will absolutely continue this process in future live classes.
Many gauged their ears while singing, and I could hear mistakes, not only observable but possible explanations for their errors. I could literally align those two melodies and I re-record it with my own audio commentary, either interspersed or overlaid, and send it back to them; it was actually more efficient than a live site singing diagnostic. [Plays examples.]
Joseph Dubiel, Columbia University:
I regularly teach the third and fourth semesters of a fourth semester sequence. This year was my first time with a class I did not already know in person. The class was still not large by most standards, 15–16, but for a class centered as mine is on composition assignments, this is large: each piece requires a different kind of attention and discussion is challenging.
To be more precise, it's not easy to do this quickly. The solution I hit on this year was to make the students the primary presenters of one another's pieces. Students put their music in a Google folder as sound files scores or, in most cases, both. I assigned each student to present a specific other student’s piece in class. I also asked them all to browse the folder and post at least one comment on a piece, other than the one they would be presenting.
Spontaneously, the students, adopted the practice of posting written comments on the pieces they would be presenting, usually as notes attached to particular points in the scoring. In class the designated expert would play us the recording and tell us something about the piece. Generally, the composer spoke next frequently in response to questions asked by the presenter, and then more general discussion would follow it, and would often have started already in the chat.
Part of what happened, I believe, was that the students developed a strong sense of one another as their audience. They came to recognize one another styles and predilections, not infrequently referring to one another's past pieces, with some specificity in one amazing case even by measure number. My role shrank, often centering on comments that would connect different pieces by resemblances or by contrasts. Several points of what I would regard as central epistemological importance established themselves without my having to preach them: that analysis could proceed primarily from liking, and that good questions could be expressions of understanding. When I asked them what I should say today, I also learned that their idea of how their music related to the music we studied was not one of emulation, but one of response in a much more open ended sense. I'm happy with this as an expression of their experience of autonomy and as a better conception of the practice-to-theory-to-practice relation.
I will devote a few seconds to assessment. Assessment can come from the instructor. Assessment need not be evaluative, but may be interpretive. My students read each other's pieces for what in the assignment was responded to in what way, and for features they liked. Assessment need not be identified with grading.
Eric Lindsay, University of California, Irvine:
Here at UCI I teach in the musicianship sequence, as well as theory and composition and digital production. Fortunately I came into this already with some experience doing online instruction and online design. I'd already checked out some different platforms, different tools and modalities. A lot of the first efforts of turning a theory class online is to emulate the best practices that we've done in the classroom. And I think one of the things that might be a fruitful or evocative way to conceive of how to design activities for online and how to assess the success of these activities, is to consider the analogy of a composer, as a being a composer is my background. And imagining if I were to write a piece for an orchestra and do a mini mock-up of this in Logic or a DWA. The pervasive feel after doing an orchestral piece in a DWA is “I really wish this was played by real players.” Instead, we can have a more successful piece imagining what my tools can do that the orchestra cannot do.
I want to focus on the way that the class designs that we make, as well as the way we assess the learning, can play to the strengths of the tools we have. Our technology is defined by the University licenses, so can we just have the practical realities of the size classes we're trying to teach, what tools we have access to that will integrate with our LMS, what are the ways that we can really dive into the capabilities that each one of these tools possesses.
Here is the theory placement test students at UCI take. We need to grade them very fast, so they know what sort of classes they're supposed to sign up for. We added image files and xml files, so if students come to something that involves part writing or written analysis, they can export these annotated on their tablets or put it into Finale or Sibelius and then upload a screenshot of this as a result.
This gave us flexibility to combine multiple choice based questions and annotated things, so that we could get through those initial placement tests pretty quickly due, and similarly throughout the year when we're doing dictation tests. An example of something that someone turned in on Canvas looks very similar to what we would have turned in in person.
But what are some things that we might be able to do a little bit on the different side? What are we trying to do when we're assessing we're trying to gauge, I think, getting an initial sense of our students. Are they able to track the incremental steps and skills we're trying to get them to demonstrate before there's a high stakes testing environment? Some of this just involves active learning in a class session, examples they cab annotate online. [Examples.]
But I think there's also a potential here for things to be a little bit more embedded, smaller step, incremental things. And the nice thing about online is there is always going to be a record of that involvement. I like to use this tool called Voicethread. Voicethread allows you to do a variety of uploads of videos or slides and voiceover presentation. Students, on their own time, can log into this link—all in their browser—leave text comments, you can have them perform something with their video cam. [Examples.] There is a range of performance, in analytical ways, the students are contributing their knowledge of the public sphere. But students can learn from each other as well; they can understand that there is maybe more than one way to go about a problem. A community of practice takes a little bit away from that sense of feeling isolated.
Joseph, I'm glad you brought up the idea of students presenting each other's work; it's very important that we create this kind of community of practice: not only are they only getting information from you, but they are learning how to be critical responders to work. Most of the Canvas tools, most LMS’s , have some sort of media integrated tool; at UCI we have Yuja. And so any assignment I like to assign students, we want them all to be made public, so students can give each other feedback. All the students have a chance to be maybe meta-reflective of the work they've turned in.
At the end of each year, you ask the students what they really enjoyed about a class that's online. And they really liked that sense of they grew not only from the feedback the instructor gave, but that they received from each other; that ends up being very important. I find the whole level of the classes proficiency goes up a great deal.
I was working with some of our Grad students to develop things we can embed into the LMS. Not every LMS can handle outside technologies, and so you can only work with the ones that are approved by the University; one that was approved was Norton based tools. Inquizitive is an adaptive assessment tool where you can decide what kind of things show up. If they struggle with a quiz, they can get more questions that are related to that kind of question. And you get useful dashboards that show if this learning objective proved to be difficult for your class, or was done well. So that gives us the chance to go back and see if there are other resource, and refine those kind of moments.
I think that when we start to envision that there are capabilities of the tools that we're using, we can start to kind of work and adapt some really creative things. The more we get to record that feedback to assess their learning the better off.
Douglas Rust, University of Southern Mississippi:
As part of my institution’s response to the pandemic, ear training classes and first and second year harmony classes were relocated to a large auditorium and rehearsal spaces where social distancing and sanitizing protocols were easier to maintain. All other graduate and undergraduate courses moved to a synchronous online formats.
Both delivery methods have many different challenges, but since this is a virtual teaching Roundtable, I'll address my remarks mostly to the asynchronous online courses. We had some problems reported here; online office hours were not very well attended, and a few students would stop turning in assignments. Students don't always click on what they should click on or watch as much as they should watch; I've got analytic data where only 2/3rds of the class bothered to click the video, and then the average duration was about 2/3rds of the full time span of the video itself, so these underscore the need to find more effective strategies and practices for online course delivery. But these misfortunes don't tell the whole story of virtual music theory teaching and Southern Miss.
U Miss’ pandemic response revealed some unrecognized weaknesses in our face-to-face curricula that were improved with online delivery. One, international students gain the ability to revisit rewind and replay lecture videos; several of our non-native English speakers reported that this helped them. And we're now outfitting some traditional classrooms with mikes, cameras and monitors, so that we can be recording and streaming future semesters for them.
Next, would be the rethinking of curriculum. I'll give one example, an 18th century counterpoint class that I taught which posted improved grades. And assessment outcomes actually outperformed the face-to-face section. We can only hypothesize; it could be the aforementioned ability to replay lectures that accounted for this. Perhaps it's the fact that students had to use music notation software, with its capacity to playback on command, more of them heard the music that they were engaged with and were writing for their assignments.
Finally, rethinking every element of a face-to-face class, to translate it into an online course, probably yielded a more focused and more accessible presentation of core concepts. One last benefit was that the online formats provide statistical data. We discovered that the textbook facts could be taught pretty well by online media, but as far as learning interpretation and interaction, we needed a different approach. Just understanding these things is a real advantage going forward for all of our instructors in their course design, whether they will be designing online or face-to-face courses or some kind of hybrid.
Peter N Schubert, McGill University:
I teach at McGill, theory, and I run the Aural Skills Program. In the McGill Aural Skills Program there are no exams, just continuous evaluation. Every student is graded on something in every class which, as you can imagine, is good for attendance. Some things didn't change last spring; smart music exercises were assessed by the computer as always. Sight singing and prepared play and sing exercises had always been assessed live in the classroom, and that was easy to transfer to online. We knew that the great losses would be having students sing together, as several people have pointed out, and dictation.
All assessment is being done by ear, which means evaluating student performances, dictation is replaced by what we call proto dictation. This consists of listening to a tune on a shared sound file, either streaming or downloaded. And then singing it back, on either solfege syllables or on scale degrees, while conducting. That is, if you know what scale degree ˆ3 is in D major, and you know where your hand was when you were saying it, this is most of the information you will need for eventual notation. Half of the classes are eight minute individual private lessons. Proto-dictation takes place in private lessons during scheduled class time, except for students in different time zones. The teacher can help out with some advice and the student can also try out the line on their keyboard. Their performance is evaluated on accuracy, and on the number of hearings required to get it right, this put some emphasis on memory, which is an important part of our program.
The other half of the classes are synchronous, and these include improvisation exercises. Improvisations are graded entirely on participation, that is to say anything you do is good, you get 100%; it's the experimentation that counts. And although this is underrated, in effect, there is social pressure, you have to improvise intelligibly enough for the rest of the class to be able to memorize it and sing it back. The teachers selects one person to unmute themselves and sing it back. If the other students like the improvisation, there will be virtual applause.
And in my counterpoint classes as well, the emphasis on performance has proved to be an unexpected bonus. Pre-covid, for instance, when we did improvised canons, one student led and another followed. Each student has to be able to both sing the lead voice and play the consequent voice on a keyboard; this is incredibly difficult and so they're evaluated on shorter canons than they would have been before. Written counterpoint exercises are evaluated as before, sent in as pdfs and sent back with comments. But in class when one student plays a bit of their counterpoint homework another student will be asked to repeat it, and then comment on it. And so, in this sense, I agree with Eric Lindsay and Joe, that my students should be composing for each other, not for me, all of this participation is excellent, for a kind of overall musicianship that combines theoretical skills with aural and tactile dimensions.
Jennifer Snodgrass, Appalachian State University:
Like many of you, when we were sent home, I was sent home with a box of markers, that dry erase board you see right there, and my YouTube channel. But the assessment things that we had to do were the most difficult for me, because I would get the papers in, I would print them all out, I would have to send them back; repeat it 60 times. My classes are quite large at Appalachian State. I went to observe Rachel Short using Goodnotes before the pandemic, and you can read about that in my book. It's an application for the iPad that cost $7.99 cents, you're able to mark up any image, any format; everything's automatically stored for you. You can send it to email, drive, dropbox, even text. So I'm going to show you how I assessed written work. There were more projects, and analysis videos and flip grids, but in some of my classes, a lot of notation still going on. [Examples.]
I’m going to download it up here in the right hand corner, and it's going to ask me to open it up. Now here's the homework, just some secondary dominant writing. I’m still just working in images; I’m going to open it in Goodnotes. You’ve got a pen highlighter—all things that normally come with the annotation—forcing it to change the colors.
Unlike the zoom annotator, it's so precise. Anytime I used to zoom alone, the annotations would not stay where I wanted them to be. [Example.] In Goodnotes I go to this button that's a square with an arrow about “sharing” now. I can export this page or hit this button and I can add a piece of music paper, and start teaching them secondary dominants for even more feedback. Then hit that button, and instead of just exporting the first page I’m exporting all as PDF. I can text them, I can Google mail it, I can send it to my drive, I can send it to my dropbox, and I would just email it to the student. I’ve given more detailed feedback because of this program than I ever had before. It's all savable; they have it in their email, I can see that it was sent. When I was teaching synchronously with this program they knew exactly where I was in the music. Many students started to use this exact program for their assignments, because of the $8 price tag, and other types of assessments, beyond pencil and paper, arose from this due to all the feedback. It's created an atmosphere where I don't know when I get back into my classroom if I ever use that whiteboard again.
I’ve Apple TV in my classroom, I can walk around my entire classroom and just mark up a Goodnotes save and send it right to my students. There's lots of other types, but this one has been the most effective for notation for me.
Curricular Innovations Panel
David Bashwiner, University of New Mexico:
Let's talk about the demographics of music theory. Music is found throughout the world, not only in the little yellow region (Europe). Music theory is the name of the academic field that examines musical structure. There isn't anything specifically yellow about that structure, but teachers of music theory at American colleges and universities are almost exclusively from the yellow circle region, 94% of the associates and full professors. And the subject matter taught in these programs is nearly exclusively restricted to the works created in the yellow region. 98.4% the examples in the seven most common textbooks come from the little yellow region (these are statistics from Philip Ewell).
In 1995 the Society for Music Theory created a Diversity Committee. At the time, the percentage of African American and Hispanic members was 2%. [Example.] We don't study any female composers in music theory. Women deserve recognition for their work in music and music theory. This brings up the notion of the hidden curriculum, which is an idea or concept that's implicitly taught through the way courses are structured, content is communicated, conceptual examples are chosen, or by the personal biases of the professor and as educators.
Music theory can be fixed and I think it's going to be fun to fix it. The first thing to do is acknowledge the systemic problems; hidden curricular messages really need to be made explicit and confronted. Because denying their existence doesn't render them harmless, it makes them harder to change. But what I was trying to do with my course is to deconstruct unintended particular messages and then reconstruct desired messages through contextualization, exploration, and other active processes.
In music theory, a common thing to do is review fundamentals at the beginning of the semester. We often try to rush through fundamentals, so that we can get to the Western Classical stuff. The way I have written, notation, scales, intervals, chords; none of these notions are unique to Western classical music but traditionally only the way that they're used in our narrow genre is presented. We could spend significantly more time with these ideas, making this not a review of what's already known, but an exploration of aspects not yet considered.
And when it comes to the principles of voice leading these concepts do tend to be fairly specific to Western classical music. But we traditionally present them as if they're universal concepts. But rather than presenting a static list of rules, we can have the students infer the trajectories of development of each trend over historical time in Western Europe.
So here's what my YouTube channel looks like. We're going to teach counterpoint, evolution of the triad, rules of voice leading; several of these serve the purpose of giving historical breadth on teaching fundamentals. This allows us to deframe some of those concepts. But the students learning organum before we talk about the rules of voice leading, they don't learn that fundamental or that perfect fifths an octave sound bad. They've learned to contextualize these things, they derive the rules themselves.
There are certain things I do that bring in conceptual breadth, mostly from the sciences. When we talk about scales, rhythms, and the art of melody, there's lots of approaches to these in musics across the world that are least very different from what we do in Western Classical music, and I think that getting perspective on those tools is going to be better for them. An obvious case: we teach that there's just two types of scales and we skip over modes. Modes are used all over popular music and jazz, of course, and they were used up to 1600. We can also talk about how scales are used and constructed in other cultures, Indian classical music and Arabic, Turkish, maquam. [Examples.]
When students were studying Indian Classical music, they spend a week doing this. Students got to learn about the Indian solfege system they got to think about differences between ragas and scales. And they also got to reflect on what is a Classical music, how much is notation the important part of that, and whether there's anything like voice-leading in other cultures. One of my students figured out that the way ragas are structured is something very similar to what our concept of voice-leading, so it's really fascinating cross comparison. And then Arabic and Turkish Maquam, Navid Goldrick has a YouTube channel for guitarists. Maquam are constructed of tetrachords ,so that goes back to Ancient Greek theory. The idea of modulating melodically, I think, fantastic.
My video on rhythm and meter, I show that oscillations and rhythmic predictability exists in nature. And then, an in-depth analysis of a song by Funkadelic, ending with some European key signatures, signatures from tactus or species counterpoint. You can use by Vicente Lusitano, a Renaissance composer to teach lots of things that happened in the Renaissance (here to teach suspensions).
A wiki that the students did together give the rules of voice-leading; they talk about the history behind each rule. [Example, animal music.]I The point there is, we sometimes think that the music of other cultures, any anything other than our own, is less complex or less interesting; it's almost always going to be the case because we're not looking in the right way. Music theory, I do think is broken. Music theory can be fixed, and I think that is something that it's super fun to do. This quote from Ibram X. Kendi has sort of guided me in this, that it's okay to not really know what you're doing. Like fighting an addiction, being an anti-racist requires persistence, self-awareness, constant self-criticism and regular self-examination, that isn't something you do all at once.
Clare Eng, Belmont University:
Let's dive into expanding the canon and advancing diversity, equity and inclusion through project work in the time of Covid. If I were to select among the many challenges of the last 15 months, it would be a lack of time, and a lack of student engagement. Many DEI conversations were happening among my colleagues, in society, in my institution. I wanted to be part of a l these conversations and at the same time expand my knowledge. I needed to be more knowledgeable about things outside of the canon, but I did not have enough time to do it. The second issue was the lack of student engagement; my college policy limitation was that online courses had to be asynchronous unless you had a medical accommodation, and asynchronous meant that you couldn't require students to participate in any synchronous activity, and anything that you don't require, usually, this did not in my classes get a robust response.
This lack of student engagement also it impacted the students themselves because they made fewer and weaker peer connections, which meant that if things were going fine and they were doing their assignments and getting good feedback things were good. But anytime they met with frustrations, this isolation affected my students. Some of the benefits of the project that address these two specific lacks, were that I could include students in my DEI conversations, so it's not just me talking to them, but them talking to themselves and with me. Since I did not have enough time to have a means of expanding my own knowledge, that was kind of built into my teaching ,so every semester I’m guaranteed to learn something new from my students.
This mode did not require me to be the only expert in the room. When it came to the lack of student engagement I designed projects this year that tried to encourage social interaction; I could only encourage that, so I did it through aspects like presentations, and, for certain classes, I required group projects and made the students go out and find their own partners in the class list. This I hoped would encourage students to make more and stronger peer connections that I hoped would be some form of mental emotional support.
The DEI project that I use in theory for the theory sequence on 20th century music is mostly taken by Sophomores. I have three sets of gold, which I color code in these excerpts. Academic goals are highlighted in yellow; they emphasize things like research: they had to turn in a project proposal and they had to write a paper at the end of the semester. Social and emotional gold were the work with a partner, so I made this a group project, and they need to target an audience and execute this project outside of theory. So not only do they have to present to their peers inside our Blackboard Collaborate class, but at some point in the semester. Before the presentation they would go outside, and—whether through a physical poster or through a Zoom or Microsoft Teams meeting presentation—they would talk to a target audience, have one aspect of music theory that they've learned this semester, and for public health, I gave them that virtual space option. They did have to work together, but they were able to work virtually. I chose to meet with my classes through Blackboard Collaborate because Collaborate allows you to embed a virtual space in your class that is available to students 24/7, but you did not have to schedule meetings and you did not have to start meetings.
The project was very intentionally open-ended so students were free to interpret diversity, equity and inclusion in any way they want, although they do have to explain how the project related to the theme. There were some ground rules: the project had to center on analysis, and if analysis was not full grounded in the execution (because their target audience was too young, or the specific topic and how they planned to present it did not make it feasible), then it must feature in the project paper that they submit to me at the end of the semester.
The second ground rule was that they had to engage with topics in the course, so they can't just talk about music theory in general or in the abstract. The third was that, because they're engaging with criticism, I did not want them do or say anything that could be construed by somebody else as hate speech or personal attacks. And I wanted them to have critical opinions, but they must have sources to back up their opinions.
In my counterpoint class, mostly taken by Juniors and Seniors, I tried on expanding the canon analysis project. [Example.].The academic goals were familiar things like “write an abstract for your project, do an analytical reduction for the counterpoint, compile a bibliography” and “apply to topics from the counterpoint class and the social emotional goals.” I decided to change the abstract—rather than one that you would find in maybe a typical academic journal—I had the students do an abstract that was designed to be verbally presented in 150 words or less. The framework and the way I taught them how to write their abstract was derived from materials for how to write effective radio ads and blogs for eBooks [Examples]. They made the presentations fun [Examples.]. There are modes that were musical theatre, film scores, music education, film, they interviewed their friends on campus, they created lots of videos, and I learned a lot about social media. Film, and American TV music.
I learned about 17th century Mexican composers, and about a variety of female composers whose names are other than Clara Schumann. And here are three quotations from different students surveys [Example]. We still have a lot of work to do to better relate DEI to what students expect of music theory. because in both mid-course surveys and student end of semester evaluations, there were all those students who loved the DEI and expand the canon projects, also students who hated those projects and thought that DEI was something more appropriate for other music fields: music education, music therapy, music history.
Laurel Parsons, University of Alberta:
In fall of 2020 I taught a 400 level theory course whose calendar description reads “theories of art music between 1900 1950.” To take full advantage of zoom's remote participation activity, I invited Horace Maxfield Junior from Baylor University, because he contributed a chapter on Florence Price’s Piano Sonata to the third volume of Analytical Essays on Music by Women Composers, so that he could speak to my class about its first movement. Horace suggested some other music by black composers that he could talk about, and what began as a single point in the course expanded backwards, so that his visits ended up becoming the combination of a long arc stretching from day one, in early September to his talks in late November.
One of his repertoire suggestions, Olly Wilson's song “I’ve Been ‘Buked” for solo voices and chamber ensemble, is the first song in his cycle Of Visions and Truth. Although it was composed well after 1950, Horace had proposal to focus on timbre, texture and through-analysis fit well with my original plan. And, more importantly, I knew that Wilson's powerful settings of the cycle’s poems would resonate with everything students had been hearing and seeing in the news for months about the murders of George Floyd and countless other Black Americans. I’m deeply grateful to Horace for introducing me to Olly Wilson's music and thought, because his suggestions started me on a learning journey that has transformed my thinking about repertoire in 20th century theory courses.
Horace’s visit was split over two classes and today I’m going to talk mostly about the Google slideshow assignment I designed for my students to help prepare them for his second visit. On his first visit to us introduced the students to Olly Wilson, to his music, and the origins of “I’ve Been ‘Buked” in the spiritual of the same name [Example]. For homework I asked the students to listen to the song and create a Google slide using graphics, lines, colors and shapes to represent the sounds they heard as the song progressed. On our LMS I provided a link to a Google slide show I set up in advance with template slides for them to use. And the slides were blank except for a timeline along the bottom showing the seven minute duration of the song and the students name who was assigned that slide.
Students were given the text and a list of instruments used in in the song, but they were not allowed to see the score until after they've completed the assignment: this was the prompt to give them something to hang those observations of sound, its focuses on trouble of the individual, and those of the world. How the timbres and textures that Wilson created contribute to the expression of that idea throughout the song. [Example] There was a lot of diversity in the way that they came to express these things.
At the beginning of the second class, before Horace arrived, I put students into breakout groups, so they could compare and discuss their slides. And when he arrived, I asked each group to share with him what they observed about each other's representations, and how they heard the sounds in relation to that the trouble question. This works so much better than the usual sort of any questions to students when you've had a guest speaker. This allows the students to warm up with each other, and it also gave them something to say when he arrived. Horace was able to respond to their observations and use them to segue into his own, wonderful analysis of the piece, and it was only then that students were shown the score and the lyrics of the remaining songs. One of these sets a poem by Henry Dumas, the young black poet who was murdered in 1968 by transit police. The final song of the cycle is setting of Claude McKay's poem “If we Must Die,” written in the wake of white supremacist attacks on Black Americans in that really horrific year.
Now I said earlier that the course expanded backwards from that point. On the first day of class I assigned them to all Olly Wilson's article from 1983, “Black Music as an Art Form.” In that article Wilson traces a group of characters to tendencies that he observes in Black American music, tracing that back to their African roots. But he also discusses Black music in the context of that problematic term Art Music, a term whose implications and inadequacies and problems I wanted the students to question and understand right from the beginning of the course. Along with the second reading, a chapter from Samuel Floyd's The Power of Black Music, it also provided a point of entry for integrating repertoire by Black composers into the course.
Many students described the classes and activities around Olly Wilson's cycle as a transformative experience ; most of the credit for that impact must go to Horace's lectures and Olly Wilson's music. But that idea of collective Google slide shows has proven to be an excellent catalyst for student discussion. I find that graphic representation exercises offer students whose traditional theory skills are less than robust an effective way of communicating what they hear. And it also challenges students whose deftness with music theory may have made them a little complacent.
Anna Stephan-Robinson, West Liberty University, West Virginia:
Why would one want to teach outside? One of the reasons that I was motivated to start teaching outside in the first place relates to that discussion we were having in the previous session about students not having access to things like keyboards. And some number of my students didn't have good internet access, and meeting synchronously online was not really feasible for some of my students. I decided that once I was able to I really wanted to highlight teaching in person as much as possible.
I appreciate the program committee’s understanding of my broad interpretation. Certainly I can't be the only person in this room who has fielded requests to hold class outside on nice days. Before the pandemic, I never indulged these requests, assuming that it would be too inconvenient, but my experience during the pandemic has convinced me that the benefits outweigh this inconvenience. Further it's safer outside during a pandemic, all the research that I’ve seen indicates that ventilation is among the most important factors in reducing the spread of the corona virus and other airborne pathogens. Finally, various health benefits have been posited as accruing from spending time outdoors generally, although these are less quantifiable.
The next question is how to do so. It does require quite a bit of gear, some of which would presumably already be part of the regular indoors setup and extra preparation, such as making sure that devices are charged. And pre-recording music that would normally be played live in class, such as warm up patterns and dictation examples. Beyond the gear, I have found the hardware and software listed on the screen useful for playing live or recorded music examples at company events and demonstrations [Example].
Let's examine the drawbacks. It does involve a lot of schlepping. Another drawback is the increased level of interruption. However, indoor teaching is also sometimes interrupted. And finally, a significant drawback for me was a vocal fatigue; I would get tired from using my outdoor voice as long as three hours per day, and particularly as I would be singing or speaking through a mask.
I am a proponent of taking our theory and aural classes outside on occasion. To conclude, let's examine my students views, from two surveys in the spring ‘21 semester. At mid semester, although most students felt comfortable enough indoors and meeting outside was either the second or first choice of the majority. These students felt that meeting in person is vital for their learning, particularly in ear-training class [Example]. These final comments come from a survey on the last day of music theory 3. Their ideas about the pros and cons of having classes outside largely mirror my own views.
On the whole, they enjoyed being able to spend time outdoors, and found that the fresh air and sunlight reduced stress and benefited their mental health. Like me, they observed distractions, sometimes couldn't see and or hear content, and prefer to be sheltered from the cold, heat wind and precipitation. A few of their comments distinguish between written and aural classes. Despite the drawbacks, when I asked whether students, would like to continue meeting outside on occasion they all answered, yes, which frankly surprised even me. But I take this as confirmation of my view that holding classes outside can be a positive experience for both instructors and students.
Evan Ware, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona:
I want to reflect a little bit on the emotional toll the pandemic has taken. I realized that the pandemic highlighted the weaknesses of every system we have. Particularly, the most obvious one at the national level was the post-Reagan neoliberalism that basically fell apart. For me, it was being cut off by commute from my community. I moved 2200 miles from the state of Michigan to California, where I knew nobody. My son was born, he has not had a chance to meet his grandparents. I’ve never met my students face-to-face. This created sort of an encroaching depression over the course of the year and I realized that what I was living with something that author and fellow academic Rebecca May has referred to as “wintering,” which she describes as “a season in the cold.” A period in life when you're cut off from the world feeling rejected, sidelined, blocked from progress or cast into the role of an outsider. Although I am a white male composer, I don't think I’m special. And I think a lot of my students are probably going through the same thing.
My students are majority Latinx, they're often first generation, many of them don't have a significant musical background before coming to university. They often work as much as they go to school, sometimes because they're supporting their families, and almost every class I had, had several people who lost a family member to Covid. When we're living through a collective trauma, what I’ve learned, the most potent forces for me are poetry that helped us describe our symbols and narrative that helps us weave our symbols into a coherent understanding. I felt rather than then give the usual bevy of as many musical examples as I possibly could to show off just how hip I was, and how much different music I knew, I decided that I needed to deep dive into only two works in the semester.
When we're dealing with trauma, we need time to process. And so I choose chose two works that had to do with mourning and the moving through of mourning in grief. The first I chose was Schubert's Winterreise, which he started writing an 1827 after he was diagnosed with syphilis. And I thought that it had a certain rhyme with our current situation: someone dying of a disease that is incurable, feeling the fear of our own mortality. The other that I chose was George Walker's Pulitzer prize-winning composition Lilacs which, of course, takes the texts “When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d,” that Walt Whitman wrote on the death of Abraham Lincoln.
For Winterreise there was almost everything we needed to cover the remaining aspects of tonal music. By choosing two pieces, that gave us the ability to get into musical meaning in a way that's a little bit easier than if I was just doing music that was “just” music. We were able to use the texts in Schubert, for instance, to talk about how modulation could set changes in mood in the text, and could discuss the supernatural elements—the fantastical flat-6, etc.—that have to do with dreaming. We could also talk about heroic flat ˆ3s and “Mut,” the hero trying to show us courage. But then we were able to sidestep into other repertoires, like the Supremes “Love is Here,” which also uses an augmented six in a very similar context. So there's a kind of a stability over almost 150 years. We talked about the Pan Am national anthem from the Hunger Games which uses flat-6 a lot. And this dovetailed us back to “Mut” where we could be somewhat skeptical of the courage that the narrator is trying to give us.
It gives us the opportunity to deal with the other major issue that has come up in American life in the last year, which is of course the death of George Floyd, and the new wave of civil rights movements across the country. George Walker, of course, wrote this piece in 1995 and that year has an echo of today because that's when the welfare cutbacks we're going on to the Clinton administration. [Example]
So, how does mourning work in terms in terms of music, and particularly in terms of post-tonal music? I’m going to share my screen with you, so you can see a bit of the analysis that we did in class. We had technical assignments, where the students would learn how to do very specific tasks like normal order, or something like that. And then we would have these longer assignments, which would be more interpretive. You might have to do a metric reduction of a passage, but then you'd have to answer some open-ended questions about what it meant. [Example]
One of the things that I liked about doing this work online, is that you could track set classes by color coding. And so we talked about, particularly, the (026), (036) set class and how they combined to create a polychord and how they're built on minor thirds, but also, if you look at the interval vectors, the zero-to-six tends to cluster at the ends of the interval vectors, so it's either open or really dense and crunchy. So there's a sense of unease, loneliness; the students reported melancholy, and that figures into the voice which comes in later on. For the final project I assigned the last few measures of this whole song cycle, which sort of begins again at the beginning, but does a few things differently. And over the words, “Yet the lilac with mastering odor holds me,” how do we understand these materials in context of the new text, this “holding”? This feeling there is a hope at the end.
It was very difficult class to give because there are no analyses of George Walker, and this is where you run smack dab into the white racial frame of music theory. The siren song is "use the easy stuff," you can plug it in; I could have taught Webern. But I want to use George Walker, I was usually barely ahead of my students, the whole time.
You know analyzing just before class began, so that I was able to make some decisions on the fly, some things my students showed me, and I think that's kind of fun, to let analysis be open ended, to let analysis fail, to let analysis be serendipitous and change the way that you see the work. It turns it into a human experience, just like the last chords of the song, which also are the chords that set the word’s “balloon”, then returns hidden by transposition and reordering and reregistration, and then recurs again at the end of the polychord, which creates a fascinating connection between the words and music blooming, drooping, holding, beginning, ending, and continuing growing, dying and persistent life.