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); 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)

       Statement of Teaching Philosophy

I was fortunate enough to benefit from wonderful music teachers who valued individuality and expression over uniformity. It is their example that inspires me. I am committed to helping my students achieve more than just passing grades and the completion of a graduation requirement. I strive to help them meet challenges with confidence by relating coursework to their interests and emphasizing the value of their individuality. This inclusivity is at the core of my teaching philosophy.

My foremost goal is to equip students to carry theoretical concepts beyond the classroom, in order to foster their individual musical growth. Two specific concerns are at the heart of my teaching philosophy. First is the uncertainty—and sometimes negativity—with which many students approach music theory, wary of the mandatory sequence of classes that stands between them and graduation.  Second, is the discursive divide between written theory and the music that is relevant to a particular student.

My approach to these concerns has been shaped by years of experience in higher education—both classroom and private instruction—as well as completion of Temple University’s Teaching in Higher Education certificate program. Through the latter, I explored theories of cognition, different approaches to teaching and learning, uses of technology in the classroom, universal design, and current issues in higher education. Completing this certificate greatly enhanced my teaching, and helped me develop strategies that address both student negativity and the discursive divide.

Students with negative (and positive) attitudes towards the theory sequence often cannot readily recognize its long-term practical applications to their instruments, their musical interests, and their future careers. This is especially true of students whose past exposure to written theory is limited. The discursive divide between written theory and “real music,” is likely a contributing factor. Given the methodologies of classical music theory represent just one facet of the complex, ineffable, human phenomenon that is Music, instructors must use discretion and sensitivity in reinforcing theoretical concepts, and must recognize the pedagogical challenges of representing Music proper within the confines of Western music theory.

My answer to these challenges is a concerted effort from the first day of class to address students not only as learners, but as unique and gifted artists who each have the potential to contribute something to our learning environment. My interdisciplinary approach brings elements of history, art, literature, and other fields into the theory classroom. As we create these interdisciplinary connections, I urge each student to develop his or her own voice, and to convey their ideas with confidence. I strongly emphasize multiple approaches to a given concept or procedure, including multiple format options for assignments that allow students to pursue their own interests and draw from their strengths. Enriching collaborative discussions enable students to hone their own perspectives, rather than being defined by what has come before. This open exchange of ideas is vital to a successful educational environment; as the strength of this learning community grows, music theory reaches students on an individualized, personal level.

Ultimately, I encourage my students to value diversity—whether a diversity of ideas, or one of ethnicity, race, ability, or identity—in order to recognize the many facets of humanity at play in the formation of their personal artistry. When students feel welcomed and engaged during brainstorming sessions and collaborations, they can independently discover connections between coursework and their own interests. By presenting music theory as just one lens through which to view Music—and not as an absolute or regulatory discipline—I strive to present theoretical concepts in a way that interests students and is relevant to their lives. By incorporating the myriad of prior learning experiences and perspectives at play in the classroom, I hope to provide deep, multifaceted comprehension that will prove useful throughout my students’ future careers.

What my students have to say!

What my students have to say!

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