So, I’m torn …
I’ve been teaching the 102 music theory course at The Art Institute for over a year now, and I can’t help but wonder if I’m perceived as the scheming evil instructor.
It’s the final class/final exam and I’m always amazed at how much these guys (and girls) absorb in just six months. A vast majority of the students are here in the Professional Recording Arts stream and if they’ve got a music background, it’s usually self taught.
Essentially a lot of the “kids” (I can’t believe I called them that) hitting the program are coming in cold – music theory-wise.
They come from basic rudiments in week 1 of 101 (learning notes on staves) to constructing and using complex chords (beyond the 7th, altered, etc…) six months later.
Now, as for the exams, quizes and the like, I don’t like to throw serious curve balls at them, but rather keep things to the familiar and relevant. I seriously doubt that they’ll need to know 80% of this stuff on a day-to-day basis when they’re out behind a desk, setting up mics, tweaking compressors. With that in mind, I try to approach these courses as giving them some landmarks and a general roadmap of music.
In other words, I try to get them aware of a wide variety of things they may encounter using contemporary / jazz theory with the expectation that some will actively be interested in pursuing / using topics right away, others may file stuff away for a later date and time, and others still may not even revisit this stuff!
Back to the exam – so with all that in mind, the exams I write don’t have things that they haven’t seen before … not entirely. I write/revise exams every term, so each one’s a bit different from the last – incorporating things that worked, and improving on things that didn’t. I may take some questions and put an added twist on them, but those twists aren’t the roller-coaster variety, but something to pause and say “hmmm…” over.
At least that’s what I hope …