As an educator, my purpose is to ensure that my students are actively learning through dynamic engagement and creative endeavors. Through this active learning, my students develop critical analytical skills and solidify their understanding of the fundamentals in music. My experience as a composer and scholar, allows me to share my love for music and to begin the exciting conversation about a diverse body of musical works, analyses, and histories from both an artistic perspective and an academic viewpoint. Within all my courses, I ensure that my students are exposed to a wide array of composers and musical styles to help foster intellectual curiosity and diverse knowledge. I have had previous opportunities to teach, tutor, and course-design through my roles as instructor of record and teaching assistant for an array of courses. Through these roles, I led and oversaw music theory classes, survey courses, special topics courses, electro-acoustic labs, and writing courses. My students have included music majors and non-majors from diverse backgrounds and experiences. I pride myself in fostering a rigorous and intellectually stimulating academic environment that creatively challenges and meets the needs for both majors and non-majors.
Regardless of whether my classroom is full of music majors or non-majors, my students are challenged and encouraged to critically think, question, debate, and practice within the scope of weekly topics. For example, within my self-designed course Film, Concerts, Gaming: Gender—Music by American Women, which was awarded the Bass Fellowship: Instructor of Record at Duke University, my students are exposed to an array of different female composers and additional topics, including accessibility, advocacy, feminism, gender, and performance practice. Designed as a writing course, the students are given a weekly prompt to engage with their reading and listening assignments through a short reflective essay. In class, they share their reflections and demonstrate their critical thinking through open discussions and debates. Debate and discussion topics include the role of race within Florence Price’s Spirituals, performance practice within Pauline Oliveros’s Sonic Meditations, and accessibility with Ruth Crawford Seeger’s Five Songs on Sandburg Poems. Discussing these topics allows for students to contextualize music within its environment and within contemporary conversations. Students are encouraged to research and investigate these composers in-depth through their final papers, which demonstrate their understanding of analysis and topical understanding towards music. These papers ranged from comparative stylizations of performance practice between Meredith Monk and Pauline Oliveros to the influence of popular music on Julia Wolfe. Both majors and non-majors are encouraged to supply direct musical examples and apply analytical engagement. To prepare both sets of students, I integrate necessary musical theory within the lecture and encourage metaphorical comparisons of the lexicon between disciplines.
Beyond active discussions and engagement with their readings, my students also have the opportunity to apply their theory within a creative context. As the instructor for Intro to Music Theory (Beginners), my students were able to apply a semester’s worth of knowledge into a cumulative creative assignment in conjunction with their first analysis paper. This course is designed to build upon the fundamentals of score reading and music theory. Weekly, students learn various topics from scales and chords to formal analysis and four-part harmony writing. Midway through the semester, students begin their creative project and their analysis assignment: a short piano piece following rounded binary form and a short analytical paper on a single movement of a piano sonata. This allows my students draw upon real pieces for inspiration and as a model for their creative assignment, while the creative assignment reinforces their new knowledge through application. Both the creative project and analysis assignment were met with enthusiasm, avid curiosity, and intellectual satisfaction from my students. As a result, the final submissions for both assignments surpassed my expectations; the creative works had nuanced melodic sophistication and well-understood harmonic progressions, while the analyses were insightful and demonstrative of their growth. Both majors and non-majors, began the class with either no prior musical literacy or only a limited experience of reading a single clef. By the end of the semester, both majors and non-majors were capable, budding music theorists with a firm handle of the fundamentals. They could now provide a basic formal analysis, read multiple clefs, write a four-part chorale, and provide thoughtful insight about music.
My teaching thrives and flourishes when I am working with a diverse group of students, who bring their multitude of backgrounds and experiences to the classroom. It can be a challenge when students begin with varying entry levels of experience with the lexicon and concepts in a course, but I thoroughly enjoy discovering and employing different pedagogical approaches to connect with my students. One such method is through partnered or group activities, where peer feedback supplies creative solutions and approaches to challenges. As a lab instructor for Duke University’s theory track (Music Theory I Lab, Music Theory II Lab, and Music Theory III Lab), I taught all three levels of the lab, where I was responsible with developing musicianship skills, which included aural skills, sight-singing, conducting, score-reading, and keyboard skills. My students included majors, minors, and non-majors. Some students had years of formal lessons and training, while others had experience within a church choir or mixing. With such a wide array of experiences, I approach the classroom as a welcoming community that relied on open feedback and comradery. Students would have weekly partnered assignments for self-assessment on their developing skills and for their partner to give suggestions and perspective (see example here). For several classes, I even challenged my students within this partnered exercise to create their own exercises to practice troubleshooting difficult passages for sight-singing or keyboard skills (as seen here). They then would demonstrate it at the following class. This exercise in self-reflection and peer guidance allowed my students to develop confidence and to become self-assured in their growth as musicians. It also proved effective in creating a positive environment among all of my students within the classroom, while creating accountability in tackling perceived weaknesses and areas for growth. Because of this, students were thoroughly prepared almost every week, which consequently allowed me the prospect to teach with further nuance, such as, directly relating their developing musicianship skills with the lectures. This created the ideal situation of the theoretical and tangible working together and informing the other.
To prepare myself for a job in academia and to continue developing my skills as a teacher, I have also earned a Certificate in College Teaching and participated as a Preparing Future Faculty Fellow in addition to my Ph.D. in Music Composition. To matriculate with this distinction, I had participated in classroom observations, taken courses in regard to teaching at the college level, and had the experience as an instructor of record. I have also applied and have been awarded a Bass Fellowship for the self-designed course mentioned above. In the future, I plan to continue to hone my teaching techniques through further experiences through peer feedback and exploring broader pedagogical concepts, such as, self-directed project based learning.
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