General overview

A loosely-structured seminar discussion is the typical format of upper-level undergraduate courses as well as all graduate work (masters and doctoral level). The point of a seminar discussion is precisely that: to discuss. In the process of discussing, you are forced to clarify what you think by articulating your ideas in a clear and persuasive manner, and at the same time you learn from the wide array of perspectives and experiences that your peers bring into the conversation. The discussion may organically move to unexpected topics, but the main takeaway from a learning experience like this one is that all of your knowledge and resources are related—there is no such thing as a separation of academic subjects when you really approach a topic critically. Your familiarity with the assigned material, your own initiative in doing additional research, and your engagement with each other is what will make for an effective and enjoyable class.

How to prepare for this project:

  1. Read the rest of this post, read as much of the linked web pages as possible (read multiple times, take notes, reflect on it—in other words, do what we do in class on your own).
  2. Refer to notes you’ve taken in class over the course of the semester, past lecture slides, and previous Online Discussions to make sure you’re correctly understanding as many concepts as possible. Read additional sources as necessary to ensure that you know what you’re talking about with this topic.
  3. Prepare thoughts, questions, and ideas that you have about the topic. These can approach the topic from any and all angles—make use of the various brainstorming methods we’ve undertaken in class, and draw upon your outside knowledge, expertise, and experiences.

Be ready to have a rich, engaging, and involved discussion with each other as an entire class. Ask each other questions. Offer comments. Respond to each other. I will not participate in this discussion.

The discussion: December 18, 2018

Over the course of this semester, you’ve learned a lot about music, and classical music, especially—the principles of music, how music intersects with other aspects of human life and society, and professional careers in the music world:

  1. Principles of music, including how the Classical period is different from the Romantic period, ways that people experiment with or change audience expectations, and all the musical elements in between, including melody, harmony, texture,instrumentation, and form
  2. How music overlaps with other areas of knowledge and ways of knowing the world,including economics, politics, war, biology, aesthetics, gender, identity, and the soundscape
  3. Music professions: performers, composers, musicologists, ethnomusicologists, and arts administrators

In this class, however, there isn’t a traditional final exam for you to demonstrate all of the material you’ve learned. That’s where this project comes in.

For your final in-class project, you’ll be thinking about the kinds of organizations in New York City that support musicking: presenting organizations, educational organizations, and artists themselves.

To prepare for this project, there are two things you should read and think about: (1) what existing New York City music organizations already do, and (2) ways to improve them.

(1) Non-profit organizations that teach, present, or make classical music in New York City. 

Get to know a handful of these organizations by checking out their websites, reading their annual reports or financial statements, looking at their social media pages, or reading additional articles you can find about their work. As you do, keep the following three things in mind to help you make sense of all the material you come across:

  • These organizations are mission-driven — everything they do comes from fulfilling that mission. What kinds of things do they say they do, according to their missions? What kinds of activities do they actually do (check out their social media pages, press releases, and descriptions of the on-the-ground work of their programs).
  • What does it take to run these organizations? How many people are involved? What kinds of tasks do they do? How much does it cost to run an organization?
  • Who do these organizations serve? Who is their audience, who benefits from their programs? Who is not being served (this make take some inferences on your part, based on the words they use, photos of their work, or what they do, etc.)?

Brooklyn Conservatory of Music

Brooklyn Youth Chorus

Carnegie Hall

Corona Youth Project

Education Through Music

Harlem School of the Arts

Imani Winds

New Music USA

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

Sō Percussion


Women in Music

  • Additional examples of vision statements or mission statements from artists and concert series: herehere, and here

Previous semesters’ final discussions may also contain information you find helpful to understand the how of music’s behind-the-scenes world: herehere, and here

(2) Making those organizations better. Based on your experience in Mu 101, what’s missing in the world of classical music in New York City? What have you enjoyed learning about or doing in Mu 101 that isn’t available to other New Yorkers? 

In the class discussion, you’ll use your individual preparation to discuss the things you’ve learned and thought about with regard to classical music organizations in New York City. 

Refresh yourself on your teamwork skills and the 4 roles of a functional team, too — you’ll need those skills for this discussion!


You’ll be graded for your thoughtful, teamwork-driven discussion participation and for the writing that you produce as a result of that discussion. Your grade will come equally from your discussion participation (50%) and your writing (50%).

The discussion

If you do not participate in the discussion, do not contribute to the assigned topic, or are not present for any part of the discussion, you cannot earn points on this portion of your grade.

The better your contributions to the class discussion, the more points you will earn (and the more prepared you’ll be to produce a thoughtful piece of writing). You will be graded on the quality of your contributions to the class discussion, meaning that the answers to the following questions are “Yes”:

  • Are you prepared for the discussion? Have you read the assigned web pages? Have you done additional reading (as necessary) that allows you to have a reasonable baseline of knowledge about the topic?
  • Are you demonstrating knowledge (rather than ignorance) of the course material and technical vocabulary, and are you drawing from past discussions we’ve held in class and online?
  • Are you contributing to the class discussion in a meaningful way? Are you offering new insight that no one else has adding? Are your contributions compelling and interesting rather than vague, superficial, or cliché? Are you building upon what other people have said rather than ignoring them?


Your writing prompt will be distributed in class at the end of the discussion. It will ask you to communicate about the content of this concert series to an outsider, and you will be able to choose from a selection of possible prompts (e.g., as a composer would describe their new work to be premiered in this series, as a marketing person would advertise to someone who might buy a ticket, as a concert organizer would speak to and welcome people sitting in the venue in attendance, as the artistic board would communicate to another musician and persuade them to join this project, etc.).

You will be graded on the quality of your writing, meaning that the answers to the following questions are “Yes”:

  • Does your writing draw upon the content of your class discussion in a meaningful and thoughtful way?
  • Does your writing demonstrating knowledge (rather than ignorance) of the course material and technical vocabulary?
  • Does your writing convey enthusiasm for the topic at hand, pay attention to details, and vividly capture the perspective of the artistic board of directors?

I look forward to being a fly on the wall for your discussion!

-Dr. J.

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