[Smt-talk] remedial theory question

Paul Setziol setziolpaul at earthlink.net
Mon Oct 18 21:39:42 PDT 2010

Hello all,

I concur with several of the things brought up in earlier posts BUT

A few things -
Numerous posts have included statements about a decline in preparedness or literacy among entering students.  There may be several things at work here at the same time.  In the US at least, studies have shown that if one sorts the test scores of entering students by socio economic, historic college attendance, and even zip codes and then matches those elements with data from earlier generations of students, one finds no decline and even an occasional rise.  New kinds of students are coming for which previously held assumptions may not work but whose capacities may be every bit as good as those who came before.

I have never been a fan of music fundamentals (some have used the term “bonehead) courses or most of the texts I have reviewed geared to those courses. In my experience they tend to present a false image of the scope of music as a discipline and imply a theory of music which begins in 1700 and ends in 1900.  They also don't tend to emphasize the skills which tend to take students the most time and effort to master (i.e. the ear skills). Because of this  I changed our first year musicianship from having a music fundamentals prerequisite and a placement exam to what's called an advisory for music fundamentals and a diagnostic exam (with appropriate concomitant advisory placement to fundamentals and or music reading - for them to take in addition to musicianship).  We begin with the basic acoustical and psychoacoustical givens and start from scratch - from scratch, building up notation and logical systems through guided observation and lots of supplemental information and just go fast with tutoring and computer assisted support.  I get high functioning and low functioning students' attention pretty equally this way rather than having some students thinking they know something already (when they really don't) and others thinking they are woefully deficient when they can learn something covered by music fundamentals in three weeks in one week with appropriate pedagogy and concentration techniques. 

I quickly learned that if one has students with a narrow background due to music fundamentals (or more) type background one has to work harder to convince them that their knowledge is at best incomplete (e.g. a simple thing like the previously cited phenomenon of students knowing major key signatures but not minor ones) because they “learned” the relative system and the like which encourage them to think they need not know direct answers,  that one can find the correct answer by a process (therefore slowing them down and introducing another variable with which they can make a mistake).  Our students increasingly need to be confronted with things that require them to actually know and actually have the skills in real time rather than believing that it's probably good enough if they think they can find it on their ipod .

Best wishes,

Paul Setziol, Musicianship Coordinator and Music Department chair
De Anza College
Cupertino, California 

setziolpaul at deanza.edu
setziolpaul at earthlink.net

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