A Snapshot of Music History Teaching to Undergraduate Music Majors, 2011–2012: Curricula, Methods, Assessment, and Objectives

Matthew Baumer


A survey of 232 music history teachers representing 204 institutions in the U.S. and Canada gathered descriptive data on the design, teaching methods, assessment and objectives for music history for undergraduate music majors in 2011–2012. On average, 8.5% (i.e. nine of 120 credits) of a typical music major’s degree is in music history. Students most often begin in the second year. The most common curriculum features only a chronological survey (n=81), while 37 add a one-course introduction and 21 add a menu of topics courses to the survey. Lecture is the most frequently used teaching method, but topics courses are more likely to use non-textbook readings, whole-group discussion, and guided listening than lecture. Examinations were the most significant mode of assessment by a large margin, followed by short writing assignments, participation/attendance, and fieldwork, oral histories, or interviews. Respondents preferred such traditional objectives as “trace the basic chronology of western art music” over objectives focusing on popular or world music, instruments, or performers, although cultural context was second on the list. Rankings of other objectives showed little variance. The author suggests that cultural changes and new research directions may challenge the traditional cast of music history teaching.


descriptive study; curriculum; methodology; assessment; survey; undergraduate music majors; objectives;

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ISSN 2155-109X