Students Evaluate Music Theory Courses: A Reddit Community Survey

September 20, 2018



Undergraduate music programs are currently reexamining the place and value of theory study. While some have argued for this core subject to be dissolved and absorbed by related courses, others defend that music theory is a non-negotiable core of musicianship and not specialized enough. Amidst the scholarly debate over the curricular needs of the 21st century musician-in-training, the voice of students themselves are regularly treated tangentially, if not dismissed. As such, when it comes to understanding the student experience, many educators remain in the dark. How has theory class contributed to the professional lives of recent music program graduates? What aspects of theory class are seen to be the most beneficial, and the most confounding? How do students view the relationship between what is assessed and what is most personally useful? To shine some light on these questions a detailed online survey was conducted via the social media website, targeting recent graduates of music programs. Despite the diverse musical backgrounds of respondents (n=291), results show significant agreement in student views toward their theory experience. Generally, results affirm that (1) music majors tend to view music theory as a highly valuable subject of study, and (2) there are significant trends in what students identify as areas for improvement. Specifically, students complaints revolved around three issues: integration, diversity, and creativity. The analysis presented in this paper opens a powerful window to the student perspective, offers curricular recommendations, and discusses the advantages and limitations of Reddit as a recruitment source.



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