Steven Kirby

Associate Professor
617 747-8604

"As much as possible, and especially in the beginning, I try to use material that’s likely already familiar to the student. I start by trying to understand them a little. I give them sheets to fill out on which they write about what music they listen to and how they’ve studied music. I try to have a dialogue with them, so I learn as much as possible about how they perceive music. Sometimes, if there’s time, I ask them to bring in samples of their own music or music they really admire. It’s important to make the curriculum material somehow connect with the individual. I also play in class and have them sing quite a lot, to make it physical, as opposed to just writing."

"I’m primarily a guitarist, so I play a lot of examples on guitar. I think some of the students find it kind of a novelty that I’m using the guitar as opposed to the piano about half the time. It’s a little more visual; they can see my hands. I also talk about my life as a performing musician. I’ll say things like, 'On the gig last night, the piano player played a different reharmonization or inversion than what I’m used to hearing in that particular song. But I really liked the way it sounded, so I’m going to use it from now on.' It gives them a sense of how this knowledge is used in the real world."

"I try to emphasize that there is a difference between academic understanding and knowing something in a really practical way. It’s not enough to just know the information on a particular day when the test is happening. I do what I can to help the students connect to the information so that they start using it as soon as possible. It’s really great when they come in and talk about having noticed an example of something we’ve covered in class in the real world—or used it themselves."