Category Archives: Writing

What is Music Theory Pedagogy?

This past fall, I was invited to the Society for Music Theory’s conference to present as a member of a panel to the Music Theory Pedagogy Interest Group. Other members of the panel included Mary Arlin, John Covach, Michael Callahan, and Anna Gawboy. Each of us were asked to explore the question “What is Music Theory Pedagogy?”—a question which had not been addressed directly by the Music Theory Pedagogy interest group for many years.

Increasing the diversity and relevance of core courses within contemporary music curricula has been a primary research area of mine for the past decade. My remarks delivered on this panel provide some insight into my developing approach to these issues, as well as a glimpse into my own justifications for, at the very least, seriously considering change.  A video recording of my remarks can be found below.



Rethinking the Theory Classroom

Pedagogy is something that is always on my mind. Questions regarding how, why, and what we teach to student musicians occupy a great deal of my time and research. Most recently, I’ve had some of my work published in the third volume of Engaging Students, an online journal devoted to student-centered learning in music.  Give it a read: “Rethinking the Theory Classroom: Towards a New Model for Undergraduate Instruction.”


Silence often weaves,
Its coursing drape
Through fissures in
The bedlam,
Mending chaos with
A ribbon of silken
Quiet reverie

But that day
When I stood
And watched the snow
Flakes, descending
Through the peace,
Amid the aching trees,
The silence spoke,

Curling up around
My limbs, the wind
Its chariot, trussed
My bleeding heart
then flicked its
Thousand tongues
Against the many
Ardent drums
I did not know I had.

It wrote new dreams,
Planted peace,
Pricked my passions,
And woke whatever
Lazarus had occupied
My inner catacombs.

Now, when it slithers
By, I hear the memory
And witness that
The quiet’s stealth
And fleeting voice
Is its prophetic
Role. My bread into
Flesh. My wine into blood.
It animates, transubstantiates.
Speaking, touching,
And healing with
The halting charisma
And power
Of silence.

On Children

The Little Girl

The little girl

Caught in class
Because her folded secret
Did not get there
In the corner.
“It wasn’t meant for you.”
She sobbed.
“It wasn’t meant for you.”

With the Chalk

My son held the chalk,

And rolled it in his hand
He gazed up
And past the hoop
And past the ash
And past the power lines
And past the rotting spruce
Into the fading ether.
Then he turned to me and said,
And so I did.
“I like that,” he said
Then bent to make
A lavender bow from the stairs
Across the crumbling walk.
“Look!” He said
Pointing down
Instead of up
Then he went inside to play. 

In the Desert

As the car passed through

The dry and aching desert
There were few things that
Caught the awe of the boy’s
Suddenly, after cacti, cliffs
And clouds, 
His arm extended 
And from a fist
Affirmative, a finger unfurled
And pointed to
A hypothetical.
“I think there’s a volcano out there.
“I know it.”