Music Theory – Innovation Grant

Music Theory Study Hall

Faculty Lead: Ken White

Many Music Majors at UNCG struggle to complete the four-course sequence of required music theory classes. These are the most difficult courses these students face in the completion of their degree, and failing to pass or dropping a course can set back their studies by a year. In order to address this issue, Professor Ken White secured necessary funding for the School of Music to create music theory study halls staffed by graduate students. These study halls offer additional academic support, with the aim of creating a space where students can come to seek help from GAs and one another before they start to struggle in their classes.

The study hall is available in-person and over Zoom six days a week, with varying hours to ensure that it suits a variety of students’ schedules. On average, one to two students participate in the two-hour sessions each day. This dramatically increased at the end of the semester when students were preparing for final exams, and an average of four to five students attended each study session. Many students have expressed an appreciation for the availability of this additional academic support, and the majority of students attended study sessions more than once. Students benefit greatly from being able to learn complex music theory content from a variety of instructors and consider the many different ways in which concepts can be approached. The study hall offers students this opportunity and allows them to overcome concepts they struggle with and solidify important skills which they will build on in all of their music theory courses.

Professors have reported seeing a positive impact in the classroom due to study hall attendance, and many have offered extra credit to incentivize more of their students to attend. Students who have attended study sessions often grasp new concepts more quickly. This is due in part to developing a stronger understanding of foundational content and being well-prepared for the new material which builds upon previous lessons.

As a whole, the Music Theory Study Hall has also provided a very positive experience for the graduate assistants who staff it. The six GAs who work in the study hall are all music theory students or have passed music theory courses at a high level. Many of the graduate assistants also work as TAs in introductory music theory courses at UNCG and have an existing rapport with the undergraduate students. For many, working in the study hall provides opportunities to practice teaching skills and enjoy making a positive impact, alongside their own challenging graduate-level courses.

At the end of each session with a student, the graduate assistant they have been working with records a summary of the session including what the student was working on and any progress that was made. As a whole, these summaries have all been incredibly positive and emphasize the achievements of students as they work to conquer difficult material. This demonstrates that the Music Theory Study Hall is having the intended effect, and Music Theory faculty want to continue to build on this success to reach as many students as possible. They are focused on finding out what obstacles are preventing some students from seeking help and attending study sessions. They intend to perform surveys to learn more about how to encourage and enable students to attend. Since the Fall of 2022, the high DFW rates in Music Theory courses have begun to decline, and faculty hope to see that trend continue through ongoing student support. Many students expect to struggle in their Music Theory courses, they have a reputation for academic difficulty, but faculty are committed to showing students that although this material can be challenging, they can have a very positive experience in these courses and achieve academic success.

Want to Learn More?
Visit the Music Theory program’s website or contact Ken White (