Teaching Statement

Conscientious music theorists are responsible for teaching their students twice over. First, they must impart the tools of musical science, sharing the techniques to represent, measure, classify, and arrange sounds. Such tools mean little by themselves, however, and therefore a second education is necessary: one that looks beyond the means of musical science to question its ends, and to challenge, precisely and relentlessly, the notion of a uniform, complete, or essential musical rationality. A great music theory teacher is part mathematician, part historian, and part philosopher: someone who can teach students to relish the extravagant formal detail and remarkable sonorities of musical systems, while heightening an awareness of such systems’ power to regulate musical production by silencing unruly noises and voices.

My graduate education in the Music Department at NYU made it possible for me to imagine this pedagogical ideal; the patience and support of those in charge of our music theory program helped me realize it to the best of my abilities. As the instructor of 2007–2008’s introductory course for undergraduates, I redesigned the curriculum to clarify the formal content of musical systems, examine differing—often contradictory—solutions to technical problems, and emphasize the variability of systematic musical thought through place and time. In 2008–2009, as a supervisor and archivist of the undergraduate theory program, I am able to share the ideal with current and future teachers in the theory program: a structure now exists to preserve the collective knowledge of our community, and to help new teachers take advantage of the program’s flexibility without becoming baffled by it. We are close to giving students the dual education they deserve, and I will continue working to turn the dream of conscientious music theory teaching into a practical reality.