These days, the name for what I teach is either Non-Performance Studies or Emergent Media. When I started teaching, only 15 years ago, it was simply Music History and Criticism. A big part of the challenge and the fun—if one cares to look at it that way—of being a music instructor is riding the waves of change that continue to wash through the world of music instruction and academia in general.
The university courses I first created for music majors and general college students alike—players and non-players, jazz-focused or not—were specific to artists and styles: Miles Davis, Kind of Blue, and Modern Jazz. Paul Simon, Graceland, and “World” Music. John Coltrane, Spirituality, and A Love Supreme. Led Zeppelin, Electric Blues, and Hard Rock. The syllabi consciously balanced contemporaneous articles and reviews with more contemporary views. I employed video clips of historical performances, excerpts from recent documentaries, and lots of music, old and new. I treated the artists and albums as doorways into more expansive perspectives, considering creative triumphs and controversies, and finding connections to and parallels in today’s music scene.