Three Verses on a New Refrain: Multiple Perspectives on Nurturing Diverse Musicianship in Music Teacher Education


Carolyn Cruse, Texas Tech University

Adam J. Kruse, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Nathan B. Kruse, Case Western Reserve University


One aim in contemporary music education is to provide preservice teachers with a broader, richer scope of music making opportunities. While secondary and collegiate music models typically entail ensemble-based experiences, nontraditional music classes such as popular music, vernacular music, and music technology are gradually becoming more prevalent, yet far from mainstream. Teachers, students, and researchers alike have sensed that changing currents in music education could lead to groundbreaking music practices in 21st-century schools (Bauer, 2014; Green, 2008; Woody, 2012). This is especially pertinent for preservice music teachers, who, as school music educators, will be expected to possess the musicianship required to teach in multiple contexts, formats, and styles. Examining the various ways in which students experience university curricula might add perspective and innovation to an evolving music education canon. This interactive session includes three faculty-led program initiatives that have been applied in response to this momentum.


First, we begin with an overview of formal and informal modes of music learning, and how they are regarded in the current context of music teacher education. We examine these concepts further through the lens of a newly created course in vernacular music, in which students explore, create, and deconstruct student- generated works that are performed on a variety of folk and traditional instruments. Specific topics of this course include songwriting, cover tunes, original songs, and applications to creative warm-ups for ensembles.


Second, we consider a curriculum and instruction course that incorporates various aspects of formal and informal music learning, as well as student autonomy, creativity, and assessment. In this course, groups of students arrange folk songs, and, using technology, make innovative adjustments so that a new work is revealed. Following the completion of the arrangements, students lead short rehearsals, whereby peer-teaching skills are enhanced through teaching original student music.


Third, we examine the tenets of a popular music pedagogy course, which is organized around an instructor-designed framework that combines positioning popular music as a bridge, as a lens, and as practice along with the National Core Arts StandardsŐ artistic processes of creating, performing, responding, and connecting. This dynamic grid encourages students to engage popular music in a variety of ways toward a wide range of goals while positively complicating conceptions of popular music integration in school music settings. This framework also will be used to understand previous and current educational trends, as well as to encourage additional pathways and possibilities for the future.




Bauer, W. I. (2014). Music learning today: Digital pedagogy for creating, performing, and responding to music. New York: Oxford.

Green, L. (2008). Music, informal learning and the school: A new classroom pedagogy. London: Ashgate.

Woody, R. H. (2012). Playing by ear: Foundation or frill? Music Educators Journal, 99(2), 82-88.