Professor presents teaching technique

Elizabeth Stoeger, For the Review

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Anna Song, assistant professor of music and the Director of Choral Activities at Linfield, presented a lecture entitled “Updating Aural Skills Training and its Pedagogy” on Wednesday evening in Riley Hall.

Song received her master’s in conducting from the School of Music and the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale University and recently finished her doctoral studies in music education from Teachers College, Columbia University. In addition, she is the co-founder and artistic director of In Mulieribus, a professional women’s ensemble that performs early music.

The lecture was based on the research Song did for her dissertation. It was focused on ways to help students improve their aural skills, or the ability to think in the language of music.

Aural skills can also be applied when learning a foreign language.

At Linfield, this skill is developed in the ear training and sight singing class (ETSS), which Song teaches.
The aim of developing aural skills is to be able to listen to a piece of music and notate it on paper, as well as seeing a piece and conceptualizing how it will sound, also known as sight singing.

For years, it was thought that one either had a “good or bad ear.” Aural skills come much easier to those with perfect pitch, “good ears.”

However, for those without this natural know-how, it’s a long, hard road. The curriculum for teaching this skill was underdeveloped and did not serve the students who were struggling.

This ability is imperative to any musician but, surprisingly, is not taught in high schools. Students come to college knowing almost nothing about this essential skill and are thrown into ETSS class not having to equipment to be successful.
Song said, “It’s so clear that student’s aren’t learning the way they need to be learning…essentially that’s what motivated me to dig deeper and go down this path.”

This led her to incorporate the contemporary notion of cognitive learning theory into her teaching of aural skills. The three components of the cognitive learning theory are action, cognition, and emotion.

Song created a new method to teach aural skills involving those three factors. Her updated system integrates improvisation, reflective writing, and peer learning, all meant to decrease the common feelings of isolation and inferiority that prevent learning.

“Even though it’s touted to be so important and it’s expected of everybody, it also was the most dreaded course.”
Improvisation promotes exploration and integrates both theory and practice. Reflective writing facilitates self-awareness and allows students to think critically about their struggles and achievements which inform future learning. Finally cooperative, or peer, learning provides the social component that is crucial in developing aural skills.
Song’s new approach has put music back in the hands of those who aspire to learn it, not just those who are born with perfect pitch.

“I come from the view that music is every human being’s right…or form of human expression, so we all have that capacity.”

Elizabeth Stoeger can be reached at [email protected]