Reimagining Methods and Approaches for Teaching Music Theory to Higher Education Students

The question of how to present musical-theoretical content within contemporary Higher Education curriculum is not a simple one: on the one hand, many students express an interest in learning musical-theoretical skills that are of value to their own creative practices while, on the other, many contemporary musical practices do not require such knowledge for success. In addition, the variety of educational and autodidactic backgrounds that lead students to Higher Music Education mean that a comparable baseline of knowledge in this area cannot be assumed. This themed session draws on ongoing discussions within the EDIMS Working Group ‘Reimagining the HE Music Curriculum’, and the Music Theory subgroup that was formed within it. The session will comprise reflections on recent curriculum design—and responses to these—including on a new programme at Leeds Arts University, new module development at the OU, and a curriculum review and concurrent research project (Muso-Gym) at Goldsmiths. The panel and respondents will address questions such as bridging the educational deficit in Music at level 3, the value of music-theoretical skills to students beyond education and in their lives in music, and methods of digital learning and engagement. The panel do not present our solutions as the sole examples of good practice in the sector, but aim to share experience and invite discussion about how learning in the area of music theory can be made accessible, practical and relevant for the groups of students we encounter.

This session addresses possible solutions for engaging diverse student groups in HE in music-theoretical content, considering the variety of educational backgrounds from which students may enter Higher Education. We give particular consideration to the variety of further educational and autodidactic backgrounds that may now be routes into Higher Music Education, especially given the current music educational context in the UK. The panel will not approach the question as researchers in the broad field of Music Theory but rather as educational practitioners looking to engage students in a variety of musical literacies as part of their higher music education. The questions addressed are of relevance to all academics involved in curriculum design in UK universities, and to educators seeking to prepare students for Higher Education in Music.