Blending Resources to Enhance Fluency and Incorporate Interdisciplinary Learning in the Music Theory Fundamentals Classroom

Professor Christopher White, (Assistant Professor, Music Theory, UMass Amherst), has received a Five College Blended Learning Initiative grant for 2016-17. These awards are supported by the Five College Deans and a multi-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The goal of the grant is to engage faculty members in the exploration and evaluation of blended learning’s potential to enrich teaching and learning in liberal arts settings. Professor White will be working with UMass Amherst IT to create some of the resources for this course. A summary of his project is below.

In introductory music theory and fundamentals classes, students not only develop basic musical skills, but also engage with larger interdisciplinary topics. Throughout the semester, we ask how music communicates, how we delineate between sound as art and sound as noise, and how some moments in music are surprising while others are completely expected. Our blended classroom will use interactive online assignments to enhance students’ skills acquisition while connecting these skills to broader concepts. They will learn to master tasks, from reading and manipulating music notation to producing short melodies, chord progressions, and even songs. These more sophisticated assignments will incorporate interdisciplinary concepts: for instance, students will learn to compose music via basic statistics, learning to manipulate and analyze datasets to identify musical norms, using these norms to produce their own songs, and even connecting these ideas to larger notions of the ways music communicates ideas and emotions.