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Sunday, May 22, 2022


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Music department focuses new curriculum on specific student interests

The University of Richmond music department has introduced a new curriculum, allowing students to concentrate in specific fields of music including performance, musicology and composition theory.

The curriculum encourages students to consider the many ways of thinking about and engaging in music, while allowing them to pursue their musical passion, said Benjamin Broening, chair of the music department.

In terms of the new curriculum, students will share a common set of core musical requirements including coursework, individual study in voice or an instrument and participation in an ensemble. They will then take a cluster of three additional units focusing on an aspect of musical study: performance, musicology or composition and theory, Broening said.

By the end of sophomore year, the focus series will pair students with a faculty mentor whom they can collaborate with in the area of interest they have selected. In addition, a capstone seminar directly related to the student's focus series must be completed.

Students interested in performance might give a recital or a lecture-recital that engages students to talk about the music that they will then perform. Musicology-focused students typically work on research projects with a goal of publishing or presenting their work at a conference.

"We had several goals," Broening said. "We wanted the music department to be a place where students can encounter a very broad range of musics, where students can engage with music as performers, scholars, theoreticians and composers, and where students could deeply pursue their particular interests in music."

He said that as part of this process, the music department had hired a new faculty member, Joanna Love, who has taken the position of assistant professor of music. With her expertise on popular music and music in advertising and film, faculty members hope to develop several new courses in popular music, historical performance practice, musicology and composition that will be available starting next semester.

Love received her Ph.D. in musicology from UCLA and then worked there as an adjunct professor. This semester, she is teaching a course called Music Scenes, which is designed around attending various genres of concerts, and also a course titled Popular Music of the 1970s and 1980s.

"UR is obviously much smaller than UCLA, but other than that, I would say they actually have a lot in common," she said. "I am impressed and excited by how the community has so warmly welcomed me to this campus. The music department faculty is very supportive of my work and eager to allow me to not only participate as a colleague, but also to propose new courses for the coming terms."

Love said she hoped to see her students develop basic vocabulary for listening to and talking about music, and also to see them develop an understanding of music as a product of its social and cultural surroundings.

Freshman Scott Shim is looking to get more involved in the music department at Richmond, focusing on piano and music production. For Shim, coming to Richmond undeclared was daunting, but he said that music had always been a huge passion in his life.

"I just started from there," he said. "The music department did help me get started since I really had no idea. I just went to Dr. Love, said I wanted to go into music and she took me to a bunch of professors. I met them and they got me started on whom to meet, the classes, how to get set up. I think they really wanted me to do music, even though I'm not that musically talented compared to a lot of other people at school."

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Shim is currently taking a music theory class and a jazz piano class to improve his skills. He said he had never had any formal lessons and that he had learned piano on his own.

"The changes we are making to our curriculum are exciting and offer endless possibilities for students interested in music to explore whatever it is that they are passionate about," Love said.

Contact reporter Sheetal Babu at

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