Notes 60.1 (2003) 191-193
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Teaching Music History. Edited by Mary Natvig. Aldershot, Hants, England; Burlington VT: Ashgate, 2002. [xiii, 268 p. ISBN 0-7546-0129-3. $69.95.] Bibliography, index.
The aspiring musicologist, having completed a doctorate, faces the prospect—seemingly becoming grimmer from year to year—of finding full-time employment as a college instructor. The irony of the situation is that whereas graduate programs in musicology strive to produce world-class scholars, their dedication to pedagogy is typically negligible. This priority is misplaced to the extent that teachers just entering the field risk finding themselves woefully unprepared when confronted with the range of challenges incumbent upon developing and delivering their first actual course. And while a few useful pedagogical guides do exist, notably Gilbert Highet's The Art of Teaching (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1950; reprint, New York: Vintage Books, 1989) and The Art and Craft of Teaching, ed. Margaret Morganroth Gullette (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Danforth Center for Teaching and Learning, 1982), they are not directed to any specific discipline. Given the prevailing conditions, then, the need for a monograph such as the one under consideration was manifest, and frankly I am surprised that it took so long for a book dedicated solely to this topic finally to appear.
According to the editor, Mary Natvig, the sixteen contributions were "written from a variety of perspectives" by a group of "traditionally trained musicologists ... in various stages of their careers" (pp. x, xii). Natvig envisions a spectrum of readers, ranging "from the graduate student ... in front of a class for the first time to the seasoned professor having to teach outside of his/her specialty; from musicologists seeking to enrich their teaching expertise to performers looking for a life raft after learning they must teach a university music history course" (p. ix).
The essays are divided into four sections: (1) "Approaches to the [Majors'] Music History Survey"; (2) "Teaching Non-Majors: The Introductory Course"; (3) "Topics Courses"; and (4) "General Issues." This approach is sensible in that the first three headings correspond to the main categories of undergraduate courses usually taught by musicologists, while the fourth serves as a catchall for further concerns. From a methodological standpoint, the essays fall more broadly into two groups, separable yet interdependent: (1) those that grapple with specific pedagogical issues; and (2) those that describe a set of conditions obtaining in a certain educational milieu.
The benefits of such an anthology are seen especially in the variety of topics and viewpoints expressed. The result, representing the fruit of many decades of experience and contemplation, is well beyond the capacity of any one person. Almost all the articles are refreshingly brief—a dozen pages or less; this allows the reader in most cases to digest easily an author's thesis. Many of the papers are quite absorbing, the most outright enjoyable being perhaps Vincent Corrigan's essay on "The Myths of Music History."
While the neophyte may learn any number of valuable things from this book, it is actually the experienced instructor who stands to profit most. Those who have spent any considerable time in the classroom will likely find themselves reacting avidly to various scenarios being described; this recognition factor grounds the flow of ideas in practical terms, not merely in the abstract, and acts as a wellspring for reflecting on [End Page 191] problems that may have been floating around in one's subconscious for years. The teacher looking for new angles might be drawn to the chapters on "topics" courses (especially Michael Pisani's on film music, but also Susan Cook's contribution on American music, and Natvig's own "Teaching 'Women in Music'"). The graduate teaching assistant or first-year instructor may prefer the purposeful discussions concerning the majors' survey (by Patrick Macey, Kenneth Nott, Ralphe P. Locke, and Robert Fink) or the section on "appreciation" courses (by Maria Archetto, Marjorie Roth, and Noël Bisson). Most of these pieces are replete with ideas that have actually been tested in the classroom.
In terms of curricular issues, the most resonant essay for me was...