Popular Music in Higher Education: Finding the Balance

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.18177/sym.2019.59.sr.11456

Abstract

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.

V.J. MANZO

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Last modified on Monday, 07/10/2019

Robert Larson is Director of Jazz Studies at Shenandoah Conservatory where he directs ensembles and teaches courses in jazz studies and music theory. He has published numerous journal articles and is the author of Arranging for the Small Jazz Ensemble (Armfield Academic Press, 2010). His sextet recording, Popular Delusions (Swarm Records, 2016), has received extensive radio play nationwide. He has presented papers at numerous jazz conferences in areas of performance and pedagogy and specializes in the early style of pianist Bill Evans. 

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