The final exam in Mu 101 is not a traditional written exam, but it is still an opportunity to demonstrate all the learning and thinking you’ve done this semester. You will show how you understand the world of classical music, effective discussion participation, and how to meaningfully contribute to a group in our final in-class discussion and writing project.

You may find it helpful to use the discussion space below on this blog post to plan, clarify, or bounce ideas off of each other in preparation.

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%).


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 experience.

The project

Classical music carries a lot of baggage in the form of stereotypes, some of which are inaccurate, some of which are accurate, and many of which are alienating for listeners who aren’t yet familiar with classical music (this list was created by you in class at the beginning of the semester):

American slavery · Annoying · Baby Einstein · Ballet · Blue blooded · Boring · Calming  · Chaotic · Contagious/acquired taste · Dated · Dramatic · Elevator muzak · Fancy · Flamboyant · Flavorful · For studying/makes you smart · Gentle · Hard to follow · High class · Hold music (on the phone) · Intelligence · Interesting · It’s in a different language · Just sitting · Last generation · No synthesizers · Not entertaining · Not pleasant · Old people · Old white dudes · Opera · Peaceful · Plain · Pompous · Rich old people · Sleeping · Slow · Turn it off · Wealth · Wine · Written a long time ago

As a class, your task is to use the interests, input, strengths, and collaborative abilities of everyone in the class in order to imagine, design, and describe a musical experience* that would help people who aren’t familiar with classical music (yet) better understand the kind of things you’ve been learning about and experiencing in Mu 101.

Your class discussion will likely generate answers to these questions and other similar questions:

  • What barriers prevent people from having a positive “musical experience” with classical music? What can you do to remove those same barriers?
  • What will this “musical experience” entail?
  • Who will be the target audience for your “musical experience”?
  • What will people who engage with your “musical experience” come away with?
  • What challenges would you face if you were to actually create this “musical experience”?
  • Why would this “musical experience” be necessary, beneficial, or meaningful?
  • Why hasn’t this “musical experience” been created before?

*What’s a “musical experience”? You and your classmates will need to define this together.

How to prepare

(1) Make a list of what you want to share with the class. What were the most meaningful experiences, facts, ideas, or sounds you came across in Mu 101 that captured your imagination and curiosity? You brainstorm ideas for the “musical experience” that’s the final product of this in-class discussion, but make sure that you leave room for your classmates to contribute and shape this project.

(2) Make a list of how you can share those ideas with the class. Think about ways to contribute to the discussion and how to play various roles in the group. What strengths do you have that you can plan to offer to the group? What areas are you less strong in where you can look for contributions from others?

(3) Research as needed. Read additional sources for information, data, or clarification of your ideas that you want to share in the discussion.

What will happen at the exam?

How you complete this task as a class is entirely up to you — how you begin, who does what, how you bring your ideas together, what the final product looks like…


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 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?
  • Are you effectively contributing to the conversation, creating avenues for the entire class to contribute effectively, and/or exemplifying the roles we’ve learned about for group work?


The writing prompt will be distributed in class at the end of the discussion. It will ask you to reflect on your group’s ability to work as a group: effectively playing the four roles in an effective group, how people contributed to the conversation, and your overall observations.

You will be graded on the thoughtfulness 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 demonstrate 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?


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

  • Principles of music, including how stylistic periods in music history are different from each other, ways that people experiment with or change audience expectations, and all the musical elements in between, including melody, harmony, texture, instrumentation, and form
  • How music overlaps with other areas of knowledge and ways of knowing the world, including economics, politics, technology, structures and systems of prejudice and oppression, war, biology, aesthetics, gender, identity, and the soundscape
  • Music professions: performers, composers, musicologists, ethnomusicologists, and arts administrators
  • Four roles in effective group work: ogre, challenger, empath, scribe

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

-Dr. J.

2 thoughts on “Final discussion (Fall 2019)

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