Sabrina Clarke is a composer, theorist, pianist, and music educator based in Philadelphia.


Recent courses taught include: Harmony I (MUSC 195, UD); Counterpoint (MUSC 392, UD); Advanced Harmony II (Theory IV; MUSC 296, UD); Music Appreciation (Music, Gender, and Politics, MUSG 6109, Rowan Univ.); Graduate Theory Fundamentals Review (MUSC 595, UD); Graduate Aural Theory Review (MUST 5004, TU); Graduate Harmony Review (MUST 5001-5003, TU); Music Theory I (MUST 1701, TU); Music Theory II (MUST 1702, TU)

MUSG 6109 course site

       Statement of Teaching Philosophy

I am eternally grateful to my wonderful music teachers, people who valued individuality and personal expression over uniformity. Following their example, I am committed to helping my students achieve more than just passing grades and a graduation requirement. I strive to create a welcoming, diverse, collaborative learning environment.

What is concerning to me as a theory educator is the uncertainty—and sometimes negativity—with which many students approach music theory. Often there is a discursive divide between traditional, classroom music theory and the “real music” that is at the core of a student’s musical identity. This struggle intensifies as students move through the theory sequence from diatonic to chromatic and finally post-tonal harmony.

I approach this problem with an array of strategies based on my experience as a professor, the perspectives I gained through my completion of Temple University’s Teaching in Higher Education certificate program, and my collaborative examination of pedagogical approaches based on open dialogue with both students and colleagues. The certificate program—with its emphasis on topics like theories of cognition, various pedagogies, universal design, and classroom technology—empowered me to cultivate an informed approach that is rooted in inclusivity.

I create this inclusive environment by involving and engaging multiple approaches and perspectives. Enriching collaborative discussions encourage students to think critically, and to apply theoretical concepts to the music they enjoy. I extend this spirit of collaboration to different aspects of the class, using games, visual demonstrations, peer teaching opportunities, student-designed projects, and customizable assessments. Options for an end-of-unit project typically include the student’s choice of a composition, a detailed handout, or analysis of a short excerpt.

I believe open dialogue both inside and outside the classroom is vital to a successful educational environment. I encourage student feedback in one-on-one meetings and (anonymous) online surveys. I always strive to improve, and enjoy discussing aspects of pedagogy with colleagues. This dialogue is, to me, indispensable. A strong learning community of both students and faculty is vital to student success.

The inclusive nature of my classroom also involves increasing the visibility of underrepresented composers. I believe that the lack of diversity in the traditional theory curriculum is one of the strongest contributing factors to student disinterest. Presenting the music of Amy Beach, Josephine Lang, Fanny Hensel, Florence Price, Cecile Chaminade and others in a variety of contexts—including in-class analysis and listening assignments—helps to spark student interest, promote engagement, and stimulate open discussion and critical thinking.

I encourage my students to value diversity—whether a diversity of ideas, or one of ethnicity, race, ability, or identity. When students are welcomed and engaged through brainstorming sessions and collaborations, they independently discover connections between coursework and their own interests. I strive to present theoretical concepts in a way that interests students and is relevant to their lives. I want students to feel empowered by the tools of music theory, rather than feeling limited or intimidated. Music theory does not have to be inaccessible. My goal is to create a learning environment in which students find the study of theory both relevant and worthwhile. 

What my students have to say!

What my students have to say!

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