[Smt-talk] Theory/aural skills programs - survey

Eric Knechtges eric.t.knechtges at gmail.com
Tue Oct 25 12:05:42 PDT 2011

Dear collective wisdom,

     I know that many of you teach theory and ear-training at various
institutions.  Also, I know that others of you have recent experience in
surviving a theory and ear-training sequence.  I would like to seek out some
of your collective expertise, especially from those of you from what I would
consider a "peer" institution to my current situation here at Northern
Kentucky University.
     The enrollment at NKU is roughly 15,000 students.  The Music Department
is roughly 150 students;  ALL OF THESE are undergraduates -- we have no
graduate programs at this time, so there are no TAs, etc.  We offer BM
degrees in Music Education, Music Performance, Jazz Studies, Composition, as
well as a BA degree and a Certificate in Piano Pedagogy, and a music minor.
     We are a young University, only having achieved University status in
1976.  Our Music Department only instituted an entrance audition a few years
ago, and so the growing pains have ensued in terms of how best to set a more
appropriate bar in all areas, not the least of which being the theory and
aural skills area.

      Thus, if you find some of the above description to be similar to
college experiences in your past, either in teaching or as a student, I
would appreciate your input on any or all of the following questions.
* Any*feedback would be greatly appreciated, and I would be happy to
share the
compiled responses with anyone interested.  (These responses are only for
our faculty's benefit -- I have no plans to publish any of the results.)

1.  In written theory, when were/are some of the following topics discussed
in the sequence (year and semester/quarter/etc.), if at all:
a.  Species counterpoint?
b.  Secondary dominants/leading tone chords?
c.  Augmented sixth chords and Neapolitans?
d.  Modes and features of Impressionism?
e.  Pitch class set theory and dodecaphonic techniques?

2.  How much were/are each of the following emphasized on in-class tests in
written theory:
a.  Four-part writing?
b.  Harmonic analysis of excerpts of unknown pieces of music?
c.  Phrase/formal analysis of unknown pieces of music?
d.  Text-painting (in art songs, etc.) and similar interpretation-oriented

3.  In ear-training, when were/are the following concepts introduced, if at
all (semester and year):
a.  Secondary dominants?
b.  Modulation to closely-related keys?
c.  Augmented sixth chords and Neapolitans?
d.  Post-tonal/20th century concepts (what specifically was covered, if

4.  Were/Are there certain mechanisms in place to help uphold the standards,
in either theory or aural skills?  (i.e., final exams that need to be passed
with a certain percentage in order to go on, parts of the course that need
to be passed at a certain level in order to go on, etc.?)

5.  What sorts of tutoring/extra help services are available for students?
Are these effective?

6.  For those of you in teaching situations:  how do you deal with
recruiting, vetting, and training adjunct faculty who may be teaching these
courses?  Also, how do you mitigate the fallout in the pacing of the
sequence from when a particular instructor just doesn't work out, and the
student education suffers as a result?

Eric Knechtges, DM
Assistant Professor, Coordinator of Composition/Theory
Northern Kentucky University
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