Music in General Studies

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

During the calendar year 2014, Music in General Studies facilitated lively conversations on the direction of general music courses in colleges, universities, and schools of music. Participants in our discussions included doctoral students, an assistant dean, a professor of popular music from Germany, an editor from Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, as well as faculty who teach general music in its many guises.  

Several discussions were 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, but 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. We also discussed texts we had used successfully in our classes and considered what the ideal book would contain. We concluded that finding just the right one among the dozens now available is daunting.