Music in General Studies

woldu gailGail Woldu, Trinity College
CMS Board Member for Music in General Studies

Music in General Studies facilitated a stimulating conversation on the direction of general music courses in colleges, universities, and schools of music at the annual meeting in San Diego. Participants in our lively, interactive session included several doctoral students, an assistant dean, a professor of popular music from Düsseldorf, Germany, an editor from Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, as well as faculty who teach general music, in its many guises, to undergraduates in schools from Buffalo, NY, to Sumter, SC. Our discussion was based on the theme “Where do we go from here?” We debated several issues, among them: the changed and changing role of music curricula in the twenty-first century; the evolution of our curricula from those fixed exclusively on Western art music to those that incorporate world cultures; the role of popular culture; constructing a curriculum that will engage students while preserving the integrity and intellectual rigor of our classrooms. Accordingly, the buzzwords for this discussion were a dichotomous pair: change and preservation.

Most of us acknowledged the increasingly comprehensive nature of contemporary “music appreciation” courses. Not only do these introductory courses include the “standard” fare of classical music, they often also introduce students to American popular music and music around the world. One participant noted that she begins her music appreciation classes with a survey of world music; another told us he works from the familiar – technology in popular music – to the less familiar, which for his students is classical music. Finding just the right text among the dozens that are now available can be daunting. We discussed texts we had used successfully in our classes and considered what the ideal book would contain.

I hope to build on the wonderful conversations begun in San Diego throughout 2013, and I encourage members to write in with their thoughts. I am also anxious to expand the membership of my advisory group. Here, too, I encourage CMS members interested in music in general studies to contact me in order that we may come up with exciting new ways to facilitate these important conversations and draw in new voices.

To get us started, I would ask CMS members to weigh in on the following: What should we be teaching students who take our “music appreciation” (I must admit I’ve always hated that name) and other general music courses geared toward the non-major? What has worked well in your classes?

Please let us hear from you!

Gail Hilson Woldu, on behalf of the Advisory Group in Music in General Studies: Eileen Hayes, Sang-Hie Lee, Max Lifchitz, and Anne Patterson