Popular Music in Higher Education: Finding the Balance

September 20, 2019


The incorporation of popular music within the higher education community continues to generate interest and conversation. Its adoption represents a significant change in mission and identity for many educational institutions of all levels. A similar shift occurred throughout the 1960s and 1970s when jazz was added to traditional music programs as a valid curricular offering. Justifications for the inclusion of popular music include its validity as a creative endeavor; the production, marketing, and performance of the music as compelling curricular emphases; the growing problem of employment for musicians educated in traditional genres; and the need to prepare music education students in popular styles. Innovative structures that recognize the reality of music-making should be considered. A creative music unit, where programs in songwriting, jazz performance, composition, and music technology complement one another could exist alongside a program focused upon the interpretation of music. The balancing act among the classical, jazz, and now popular music traditions represents a challenge for faculty and administrators; music educators at all levels will likely be affected and should be aware of the shift taking place.


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