Table of Contents


Inclusivity in Learning

Your success in this class is important to me. We will all need accommodations because we all learn differently. If there are aspects of this course that prevent you from learning or exclude you, please let me know as soon as possible. Together we’ll develop strategies to meet both your needs and the requirements of the course.

I encourage you to visit Disability Services to determine how you could improve your learning as well. If you need official accommodations, you have a right to have these met. If you have a documented learning disability or other condition that may affect academic performance you should: 1) make sure this documentation is on file with Disability Services (SUB I, Rm. 4205; 993-2474; http://ds.gmu.edu) to determine the accommodations you need; and 2) talk with me to discuss your accommodation needs.

Content warning

Popular music often involves themes that can be offensive and/or upsetting to various groups of people—violence, sexism, racism, explicit language, overt sexuality, transphobia, fatphobia, etc. I recommend you be prepared to encounter these subjects at any point in the course content, as it would be difficult for me to promise to warn you each time something arises.

It can be instructive to feel uncomfortable in your learning to some degree, but at the same time, you can’t learn if you don’t feel safe.

If you have a particular concern along these lines, please let me know so we can work together on how best to deal with this.

Anyone should feel free to take a break from class at any point, and especially if you are feeling distressed to the point that you cannot learn.

Community Values

Adopted by Mason School of Music faculty on August 17, 2022

I am committed to being respectful

I am committed to respecting the personhood of all community members across sociocultural identities, social status, and affiliation in the Dewberry School of Music, CVPA, and at Mason. This includes using community members’ preferred names and pronouns. I am committed to respecting others’ artistic professionalism with open and timely communication and input on decision-making whenever appropriate. This atmosphere of respect applies both in-person and across digital media platforms.

I am committed to being an active participant

I am committed to participating as actively as I can and will communicate when something is taking away my attention. I understand that active participation may look different for each community member and I trust that each member is showing up to the best of their capacity.

I am committed to using “I” statements and hearing “I” statements

I am committed to speaking from my own experience and feelings by using “I” statements rather than generalizing. (I think, I feel, I believe.) I am committed to practicing hearing the experiences of historically and institutionally marginalized community members individually. And seeing each community member as individuals who represent themselves and not the whole socio-cultural groups to which they belong.

I am committed to practicing empathy

I am committed to appreciating how others may be feeling and thinking. Practicing empathy also means considering how internal and external context, such as societal issues, affects how community members may show up.

I am committed to acknowledging intent, and addressing impact

Not all harm that is experienced comes from an intentionally harmful place, often bias-based harm is rooted in stereotypes and prejudice formed through socialization. This doesn’t mean that the harm feels any less hurtful. I am committed to acknowledging the harm intentional or unintentional, tending to the hurt person, and working to prevent future harm. I recognize that there is both burden and value in the contribution of community members with historically marginalized identities.

I am committed to acknowledging the liveliness of language

Language and the way we engage with language are contextual and constantly evolving. Our community includes individuals with various cultural identities, ethnic and racial identities, religions, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and intersecting backgrounds. Having sensitivity to language is essential in cultivating the conditions of inclusion for all community members. As an example, “guys” is often used in addressing groups of people however the phrase is not gender-neutral and may feel exclusionary to some non-binary members in our community (recommended replacements, folks, y’all, everyone).

I am committed to being okay with agreeing and disagreeing respectfully and challenging my assumptions

I am committed to the practice of separating the point of view or statement with which I disagree from the person when actively engaging in moments of disagreement. I am committed to the practice of calling in (suspending judgment without shame) instead of calling out (shaming). I will lead with curiosity, listen to understand, and ask for clarity. I recognize that meeting people where they are, requires each of us to do the internal work to challenge our assumptions and build self-awareness of our socialization that is connected to those assumptions.

I am committed to seeking harmony

While I will do my best to show up for and with other, I understand that there may be moments of disharmony. I am committed to self-reflection and concern for others and being an instrument of positive change. When moments of discord, dissent, or disagreement happen, I am committed to doing the individual internal work for the co-creation of peace.

Instructor Information

  • Name: Dr. Lavengood (she/her), pronounced “LAY-ven-good”
  • Email: mlavengo@gmu.edu
  • Phone/text: 703-993-6272 (this is a work number so don’t worry about intruding)
  • Office: deLaski Performing Arts Building (PAB) A-421 
  • Communication: I will answer emails within 24 hours. Texting 703-993-6272 will send me a message on my computer, so I can respond when I am at my computer.

One-on-one appointments

  • You may drop in without an appointment during my office hours, which are Tuesdays/Thursdays, 11:00–1:00.
  • If you like, you can book time with me to let me know that you’ll be coming.
  • If you want to meet virtually instead of in-person, please book in advance so I know to be online.
  • If you are not available during my office hours, email me to schedule a special appointment time.

Tutoring

If you need extra help, download this semester’s tutor information and reach out to one of the tutors I have designated for this course.

Course Information

Meetings

There are two sections, both of which meet on Tuesdays/Thursdays:

  • 9:00–10:15 AM, in MTB 1023
  • 1:30–2:45 PM, in MTB 2018

If you have to miss class, you are welcome to attend the other class if that time works better for you. (But please regularly attend the class you’re reigstered for!)

Learning Objectives

  1. Students will fluently interpret lead sheet notation.
  2. Students will practice improvisation, reharmonization, and performance in jazz and pop styles.
  3. Students will learn to identify elements of pop music by ear (harmony, form, rhythm, drumbeat).
  4. Students will illustrate the particular norms of jazz and pop music through model compositions (12 bar blues, bebop-style AABA jazz tune, arrangement of a pop tune for small ensemble, songwriting).

Course Materials

You won’t have to pay for any texts for this course! Our textbook is Open Music Theory, which is free.

Required

  • Internet access for Open Music Theory, Blackboard, etc.
  • A three-ring binder for homework packets
  • Staff paper, pens, pencils, etc.
    • MuseScore or another notation program like Dorico, Sibelius, or Finale (I do not recommend NoteFlight or Flat). **Note that MuseScore 4 is still quite buggy. You may want to use MuseScore 3 instead.

Smartphones, tablets, and computers are welcome in the classroom since you need them to access the textbook.

Grading

Your grade in the course will be determined by composition projects and daily homework. There are no exams. The weighting of each is as follows:

  1. Daily homework: 30 points
  2. Blues: 10 points
  3. Bebop: 20 points
  4. Songwriting: 40 points

Letter grades are given as follows:

Percentage/Points Letter Grade
93–100% A
90–92% A–
87–89% B+
83–86% B
80–82% B–
77–79% C+
73–76% C
70–72% C–
60–69% D
0–59% F

Attendance

I take attendance daily. While attendance is not directly counted toward your grade, if you want an A, you must miss no more than six classes. That’s about 20% of the class meetings. In other words, if you miss more than six classes, your highest possible grade is B+, regardless of the quality of your submitted work. 

I do not distinguish between excused and unexcused absences so don’t feel obligated to email me your reasons for missing class.

Please do not come to class if you feel at all sick or have been exposed to someone with COVID.

I am unable to offer virtual access to the class. If you want to keep up with coursework, you should do the readings and homework as indicated on the course website.

Assignments

Digital submission of assignments: how to scan

I am very fussy about scanned documents. Whenever you are sending me a scan, please send it in .pdf format, all combined into a single .pdf, in black-and-white (not color or grayscale). I have tutorials on how to create scans—it’s simple and a good skill to learn. 

Daily Homework

You will have homework daily.  Homework is assigned via the course website.

  • Due dates: Assignments are due at the beginning of class. You may email me the homework instead, even if you are not going to be in class, provided you follow these guidelines.
  • Late work: Because of the quick pace and accumulative design of the course, I encourage you to stick to the course schedule. Your three lowest homework grades will be dropped; this is intended to cover your “off days.” If you must turn something in late, I ask that you make arrangements with me in advance (preferably via email since I tend to forget these things). Otherwise, I typically do not accept late work if I have already graded your peers’ homework.
  • Grading: I grade homework holistically on a from 1 to 10.
    • If I think you made an honest attempt at the work, you will get a relatively high grade of 8, 9, or 10.
    • If you did not do the work or show very poor comprehension of it, your grade will be lower.
    • I will provide thoughtful comments on your homework in addition to the grade.
    • If you ever want further explanation of a homework grade, I am happy to speak with you about it.

Composition projects

  • About the projects: Model compositions are used to demonstrate your understanding of pop and jazz theory. View project instructions.
  • Prep work: Projects have preparatory assignments that are designed to help you succeed in your graded submission. These assignments are especially important to complete, even though they are still not counted toward your final grade.
  • Submitting, revising, and earning a grade: Projects are always submitted on Blackboard. Each project will be graded via a rubric on Blackboard; next, you are given the option to revise or expand as directed and submit a second version. The two grades are averaged for your total grade. All revisions are given a “best by” date, one week after the original due date. If you wait longer than this to submit, that’s okay, but I might not grade it promptly.
  • Late work: If you need to submit a project late, discuss this with me, ideally before the due date. Be aware that I may not be able to give feedback for revisions in a timely manner if you submit late, especially if we didn’t discuss in advance. Other than this there is no penalty for submitting a composition late.
  • Composition creativity and following instructions (or not): I give a lot of restrictions on composition assignments because these are meant to test your ability to apply theory concepts, rather than to test your creativity. If you are excited to compose and want to do things more in your own way instead, that’s great and I look forward to hearing it! But I need you to still fulfill the requirements of the assignment. So if you choose to deliberately do something other than what I’ve asked you to do, submit additional commentary in which you self-evaluate against the grading rubric. Explain how you have achieved each of the objectives of the assignment.

Late work

Late work policies are different for daily homework and composition projects—find the policies for each above.

Course Overview

Brief Calendar

The following course outline is a general overview of how I anticipate the class will progress. For a detailed list of topics and assignments, see the course website.

Weeks Unit Composition Projects
1–7 Jazz Blues composition
Bebop composition
8 Spring Break  
9–15 Pop Final songwriting project

Important Dates

Mason Policies

Honor Code

Mason is an honor code university. Read the honor code.

Title IX

As a faculty member and designated “Responsible Employee,” I am required to report all disclosures of sexual assault, interpersonal violence, and stalking to Mason’s Title IX Coordinator per university policy 1412. If you wish to speak with someone confidentially, please contact the Student Support and Advocacy Center (703-380-1434), Counseling and Psychological Services (703-993-2380), Student Health Services, or Mason’s Title IX Coordinator (703-993-8730; cde@gmu.edu). 

Privacy

Students must use their MasonLive email account to receive important University information, including communications related to this class. I will not respond to messages sent from or send messages to a non-Mason email address.