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Free music appreciation textbook mixes old and new

2020-11-02-Esther Morgan-Ellis
Dr. Esther Morgan-Ellis and nine collaborators created an open educational resource textbook for music appreciation. The free digital textbook is titled "Resonances: Engaging Music in Its Cultural Context."

Dr. Esther Morgan-Ellis said many instructors who teach music appreciation courses struggle to interest students in the standard curriculum. The associate professor of music at the University of North Georgia (UNG) and nine collaborators decided to make a change.

They decided to create an open educational resource textbook for music appreciation. Open educational resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials that you may freely use and reuse at no cost, and without needing to ask permission.

Morgan-Ellis took a different approach for the free digital textbook titled "Resonances: Engaging Music in Its Cultural Context," published by UNG Press. She mixed well-known selections with the classical works usually associated with music appreciation and introduced examples from non-Western traditions.

For example, Louis Hajosy, part-time faculty member of music at UNG, wrote about Jimmy Hendrix's performance of the "Star-Spangled Banner" and The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." Alexandra Dunbar, part-time faculty member of music at UNG, wrote about Lin-Manuel Miranda and his Broadway musical "Hamilton." Arielle P. Crumley, part-time faculty member of music at UNG, wrote a section about "Lemonade" by Beyoncé.

"Almost every chapter has a piece of European music and a piece of American music," Morgan-Ellis said. "And I usually start the chapters with something that is familiar."

She hopes that familiarity helps students engage and learn to appreciate the different genres of music.

Instructors of music appreciation from other schools seem to love the new textbook. Morgan-Ellis said she was flooded with responses when the book was published online in June 2020. She is aware of at least 30 programs, including Yale University, using the book.

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