Vintage Records

Pedagogical Challenges & Solutions

Music history pedagogy scholars agree on numerous challenges that exist when teaching music history. Current scholars agree that the following problems exist in the music history classroom. If a particular topic is of interest, please see the Further Reading page to read more about the topic. To simplify the problems and create desirable “solutions,” each problem is followed by the simple statement of an outcome future music history pedagogy should include:

1. Higher education is exclusive: exclusive to students who are able to afford it; exclusive of people who are of different abilities; and often exclusive to white men who receive more recognition and respect in the music field. Music history is considered a very privileged subject of study that is not accessible to everyone due to socio-economic circumstances.

Solution: Make learning music history accessible to all people.

2. Students struggle to stay engaged with textbook material and classroom lectures. Faculty have a challenging time finding a balance between listening to music in the classroom, feeding the students information during class, and actually getting to discuss the material in a lively, interactive way among students. Given that listening to music examples is a large part of learning music history, there is not a great unified way of experiencing music and music history at the same time. Music history pedagogy scholars encourage out of the box assignments and learning experiences, however, the opportunity to actualize these kinds of activities is far too rare. Faculty often have to choose between covering material and creating more engaging experiences. Students might participate in one memorable exercise throughout a course, when really, students should always be engaging in memorable learning experiences and maybe have one less engaging day. 

Solution: Engage students in a medium they are most familiar with, and which is immersive.

3. Within an undergraduate music curriculum, instructors never have enough time to cover all the material. When instructors are forced to work within a class and curriculum time frame, they must leave out musicians in the music history canon, creating gaps in knowledge. This time restraint forces scholars to choose one voice in history over another, leading to problems 4, 5, 6, and 7.

Solution: Remove time constraint of any college program and fill gaps in student knowledge.

4. Music history classrooms have an emphasis on White Culture, exclude and unintentionally devalue women, and does not value world music as an equal part of learning music history. True music history does not just include Western Classical music, and by stating a Music degree includes “music history” is misleading because of the unequal emphasis on one particular part of human’s music history. When faculty do not have enough time to cover all the material, they feel pressured to choose what to include in the course. Often, this choice means leaving out women, or emphasizing tokenism when choosing only one musician who is a woman, one black person, or one asian person. This emphasizes White Culture, and devalues people who are not masculine presenting white men. 

Solution: Remove emphasis on White Culture and include world music history.

5. Music history is best understood when the learning can incorporate music history, music theory, cultural facts, and music listening into the learning experience. With a time constraint, faculty often cannot include all these angles of interest. When students only learn a small combination of these elements, they are missing the full music history picture.

Solution: Incorporate music history, theory, cultural facts, and music listening to learning experience.

6. Curriculums usually start music students at the “beginning,” and teach them chronologically. This usually disengages just beginning music students because they are introduced to a time period of music that they are least familiar with or interested in, while also not having the skills yet to fully know how to approach music history material in general. In addition, when structuring music curriculums by time frames, students begin to encounter music that does not fit the time category definition in which the piece was created. 

Solution: Teach music history non-chronologically.

7. Music history is taught in partnership through a textbook, which removes the visual understanding of where and when the music was created, and why. The subject usually leaves out certain countries and cultures. Music history pedagogy scholars believe teaching music history geographically could solve some of the problems outlined prior, however, the time restraint and current structure of classroom and textbook relationship does not have create a current way to actually teach music history geographically. 

Solution: Teach music history geographically.