Music Learning Theory workshop presented by Dr. Jennifer McDonel


McDonel presents her workshop at a Music Learning Theory workshop for music teachers and music students at Northern State University. Photo courtesy of Dr. McDonel.

Jennifer McDonel, assistant professor of music education at Radford University, presented an all-day workshop March 21, 2015, on Music Learning Theory (MLT) for music teachers and music students at Northern State University, in Aberdeen, South Dakota.

MLT is a theory of how people learn when people learn music, developed by Dr. Edwin E. Gordon from a lifetime of research studying how children learn music. The 30 participants learned about MLT and actively engaged in activities designed to promote K-12 development of audiation, Gordon’s term for musical thought, or deep structural understanding of music. MLT provides a theoretical underpinning for the development of audiation skill in music from birth to adulthood.

Practical applications of MLT include activities that help students develop five vocabularies in music, listening, performing, audiating, reading and writing. This developmental process is similar to the vocabularies acquired in language: listening, speaking, thinking, reading, and writing. In music, "speaking" is a performance vocabulary: singing, chanting, moving, and playing instruments. “Thinking" is an audiation vocabulary, where imitation becomes independent musical thought through improvisation tonally and rhythmically.

The host of the workshop, Dr. Wendy van Gent of NSU, was excited about the day.

“Not many persons in South Dakota know about MLT, so Dr. McDonel’s presence here was our very first formal introduction to this cutting-edge, research-based pedagogy in the state,” van Gent said, “I am thrilled with the turnout and participation, and hope to make this event a yearly offering at our school. We are honored to have Dr. McDonel here and thank her for traveling all the way here from Virginia to teach us about MLT!”

McDonel also is the executive director and a faculty member for the Gordon Institute for Music Learning (GIML), a grass-roots organization of music teachers who utilize MLT in their teaching ( GIML hosts summer professional development levels courses and a bi-annual international conference on MLT.

“We are excited to host the 5th International Conference on Music Learning Theory in Chicago, IL, August 4-6, 2015. Our numbers are growing as more and more teachers discover the utility of MLT in helping students learn music!” McDonel said.

Mar 26, 2015
Jennifer McDonel