The aims of these recommendations for curricular changes in the Shepherd School are:
- Sensitizing our students to the important issues of racial and gender diversity and of fostering an attitude of inclusivity among them;
- Nurturing a broad, holistic understanding of music by means of exposing our students to various critical approaches centered on diverse musical traditions, their social contexts, and their repertories;
- Diversifying our student and faculty population in the Shepherd School; and
- Inviting student feedback in our considerations of curricular change
The musicology and theory departments have discussed the aims of the MUSE task force, and each member is supportive. The faculty are currently developing new segments of existing courses to reflect these recommendations. Below are a few examples of curriculum extension.
In Professor Blättler's MUSI 211 course (Theory I), fundamental musical materials are now presented with a generalizable approach applicable to a range of musics; foundational concepts such as scale, meter, and melody are no longer studied only within the Western art music tradition. And the harmonic procedures of the Classical and Romantic eras are introduced as an idiom-specific grammar (one of many harmonic styles available), rather than as the 'rules' for 'correct' harmony.
In Spring 2022, the music history department will revise its current course for non-major undergraduates, MUSI 314 (Music in Western Culture), first, to offer a broad perspective on music's role in culture with units drawn from a diverse array of musical traditions and repertoires, and second, to change the course title to reflect this new approach.
In MUSI 321 (Baroque & Early Classical Eras), Professor Barnett explores the topic of musical syncretism of the villancico indio (Aztec-influenced) and villancico negro (west African-influenced) in Catholic practices of Baroque Mexico.
In MUSI 378 (Classical, Contemporary, and Cross-Cultural Asian Music), Professor Chen invites international guests to visit her class, including writers, directors, musicians, curators, and artists to discuss the relation of music and politics, indigenous cultures, and traditional non-western instruments while also giving young composers an opportunity to interact and compose new works for these performers.
On the first day of Professor Pierre Jalbert’s MUSI 416 (Orchestration), students are introduced to the music of George Walker, the first African-American composer to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music. In addition to analyzing scores and using examples from the standard classical orchestral repertoire, students also study music written by BIPOC and female composers, both past and present. These include composers such as William Grant Still, Valerie Coleman, Carlos Chavez, Wynton Marsalis, Augusta Read Thomas, Joan Tower, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, and others.
In MUSI 528 (Early Opera) and MUSI 321 (Baroque & Early Classical Eras), Professor Barnett has added class topics and assignments on the intersections between music and European colonialism (conquest and commercial slave trading).
In MUSI 617 (Music Since 1950) and MUSI 517 (Early Modern Masters), Professor Shih-hui Chen featured presentations by Nicholas Newton (SSM Alumni). Newton has extensively researched operas composed by African American composers and presented lectures on contemporary opera composers including Renee Baker, Yvette Janine Jackson, and Joel Thompson (who recently premiered a work with the Houston Grand Opera). He also presented earlier works by composers Scott Joplin, Harry Lawrence Freeman, and Julia Perry. In MUSI 617, Dr. Chen also brings an awareness of music existing outside of the western canon, including topics like "vocal technique around the world," "improvisational practice in Chinese and Korean music," and "boundaries and notations."