Students Evaluate Music Theory Courses: A Reddit Community Survey

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.18177/sym.2018.58.sr.11391

 

Abstract

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 Reddit.com, 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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Last modified on Thursday, 20/09/2018

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James A. W. Gutierrez

Beginning in Southern California as a composer/arranger/keyboardist, James' central mission is to realize the potential of music-learning and music-making as forces for social change, community building, and personal wellness. This mission led James to pursue a PhD at the University of California, San Diego in Integrative Studies of Music, while teaching at several institutions including UC San Diego, Azusa Pacific University, and the Hall-Musco Conservatory. His academic work, which blends music theory and musicology with cognitive psychology, has been published by the College Music Symposium and presented at conferences for the American Musicological Society, the Society for Music Perception and Cognition, the Society for Education, Music and Psychology Research, and others. James also operates in the non-profit sector to support underserved schools and communities through music, most recently partnering with refugee musicians in San Diego. Currently James is a Frederick Douglass Teaching Scholars Fellow at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, and, when possible he enjoys playing ultimate frisbee and planning his wedding with his fiancé.

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