Teaching

Teaching is central to Judith Shatin’s life as a composer. As Rabbi Hanina, in the Tractate Ta’anit of the Talmud, says, “I have learned much from my teachers, more from my colleagues, most of all from my students.”  Close interaction with students, at both the undergraduate and graduate level, has encouraged her to remain engaged, whether in the case of the quickly evolving field of computer music or in developing new courses ranging from The Mind of the Artist (team-taught with an art historian and a cognitive psychologist), to Songwriting, to Psychology of Music (team taught with a cognitive psychologist) to undergraduate music theory and graduate seminars on topics such as Temporality in Post-tonal Music and Parsing the Electroacoustic.

Judith founded the Virginia Center for Computer Music in 1987-88, to create opportunities for students and faculty in the new area of digital music and to contribute to new research. She also authored multiple successful grants, including an Academic Enhancement Award, for which the department received $60,000 over three years to further the program. More information about the VCCM can be found here. She was also a principal designer of the PhD program in Composition and Computer Technologies at UVA, and worked with her colleagues to create a dynamic program that has flourished in the decade since its inception. Her teaching always combines project-based and theoretical work.

While it is critical for students to understand conceptual frameworks and historical context, it is also crucial that they actualize that understanding. How they do so of course depends on the level and nature of the course. In a computer music course, it might involve sonification of a data set, while a recent project in her counterpoint seminar involved analyzing and then directing a performance of Palestrina’s Sicut Cervus. In Songwriting, projects include collaborative performance of individually-composed songs developed and critiqued in group settings, as well as the development of songs modeled on traditions ranging from the blues to current playlists.

Disciplinary changes have also affected her notions of what students ought and need to know. When she began teaching, music theory was primarily taxonomic or structuralist in its stance. Scientific (some say scientistic) approaches were common. Although these did and do provide useful tools for understanding musical design, they typically ignore cultural context. Cultural Studies, an often welcome corrective, sometimes turns the lens from particular musical artifacts to the cultural work they do; and away from concert music to popular music and spectacle. It is the integration of both cultural context and particular musical embodiment that informs her teaching.

While at UVA, Judith Shatin has been a Senior Fellow in the Commonwealth Center for Literary and Cultural Change, organizing a seminar on Computing and Cultural Change with guests including John Chowning and Max Matthews; and an Associate Fellow in the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH). She was also named ‘Teacher of the Year’ by the University’s secret Z Society. In demand as a Master Teacher, she has served in that capacity at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, Bennington Chamber Music ConferenceCalifornia Summer Music, the Wellesley Composers Conference, and as BMI Composer-in-Residence at Vanderbilt University. She has lectured widely, ranging from the Leemensituut in Leuven to Haifa University to the Verona Conservatory. For a more complete list, see her CV.