Survey of Music/Introduction to Music


One of the great tragedies in most Adventist academy music programs is that we have placed all of the emphasis on music ensembles and lessons and not provided music appreciation and/or theory classes. In the process of doing that we have shortchanged our students. The following review of the movie, Mr. Hollandís Opus, written by a student from an academy for my college Introduction to Music class, is worth thinking about.

 I was amazed to see a music appreciation class being taught on the high school level. It was neat to see Mr. Holland bring to life something that is very foreign to most of the people in our society. I thought back to my academy experience where our music program offered two different classes, band and choir. During the movie I started thinking about how interesting it would have been to be taught something about music, to learn what its really about instead of going to band every day for 50 minutes and blowing on a horn and then going on to my next class.

I think it is critically important for young people to experience a diverse education in the arts. My high school didn't offer that and I'm sure that most Adventist academies don't. After watching this movie I believe that it is a very important part of education.

At the end of this article is a link to an outline of a class that has been called either Survey of Music or Introduction to Music. It has been refined, modified, and adapted over a period of 40 years to differing situations, schedules, and levels, the most recent being at the college level for the past 35 years. Nearly 3,000 students have taken the class during in those four decades and reacted favorably to it in exit surveys and class evaluations.

At the academy level it is a year-long sequence that includes an introduction to instruments, overview of music eras, six weeks of music theory, an introduction to conducting, and lots of listening experiences designed to acquaint the students with classical music and give them a perspective on popular music. The class ends with a series of listening units, each of which has a significant work from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and 20th Century eras. The students, who now have an informational, historical and theoretical background gained earlier in the class, are guided in listening to these works in class. Characteristics of the eras and structure of the work, when appropriate, are pointed out and composers' biographies are given as either lectures or in printed form. Each unit concludes with a listening test on the works and a written test on the composers.

Although I have not used a textbook, there are several available today that could be used in conjunction with the outline. The theory unit is taught using a music fundamentals workbook which, with its worksheets, enables the students to progress at their own pace. The students in academy (the college theory presentation was reduced to an informational lecture due to constraints in the schedule) are required to write a composition in ABA form and arrange for its performance for their final assignment in the theory unit. If approached in the right way by the teacher, with lots of encouragement to the student, this can be an exciting experience for the student.

The conducting is taught by drawing on the teacher's background and requiring the students to use what they are learning in a hands-on way through conducting the class in the singing of hymns. Once the students get past the initial conducting experience up front they thoroughly enjoy this part of the class.

While the students most likely to sign-up for the class are those who are taking lessons or who are in music ensembles, others will also join. Even though a music background is helpful, it is not necessary.




Class Outline

Sample Lecture (Overview & Elements)

Sample Student Study Sheet (Overview & Elements)

Sample listening Unit