Laurel Parsons, PhD, MA (Music Theory), MA (English Literature), BMus, ARCT
Full Teaching Professor, Faculty of Arts - Music Dept
I am currently Associate Teaching Professor of Music Theory and Aural Skills in the University of Alberta Department of Music. I hold PhD and MA degrees in Music Theory from the University of British Columbia, an MA in English Literature from the University of Waterloo, and a BMus in Piano Performance from Wilfrid Laurier University. Before coming to U of A in the fall of 2018, I taught music theory and aural skills, at the University of British Columbia, the University of Victoria, Queen’s University, the University of Oregon, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and Wilfrid Laurier University, and other courses such as musical neuroscience and academic writing at Quest University Canada.
My principal research project is co-editing the four-volume series Analytical Essays on Music by Women Composers (Oxford University Press) with Dr. Brenda Ravenscroft, Dean of the Schulich School of Music at McGill University. The inaugural volume of this series (Analytical Essays on Music by Women Composers: Concert Music, 1960–2000 [New York: Oxford, 2016]) was awarded the Society for Music Theory’s 2017 Outstanding Multi-Author Collection Prize. The second volume (Secular & Sacred Music to 1900) appeared in 2018; the third and fourth (Concert Music, 1900–1960 and Electroacoustic, Experimental, and Multimedia Music Since 1950) are forthcoming. I have also published articles and book chapters on the music of 20th-century British serial composer Elisabeth Lutyens, whose music was the subject of my dissertation, and whose Anerca for narrator and 10 guitars led me to explore the representation of Inuit poetry in 20th-century concert music.
The other major prong of my research was inspired by my aural skills tutoring of singers with dyslexia and other learning differences. From 2011-15, I collaborated with Marion Porath and Nancy Hermiston at the University of British Columbia on the SSHRC-funded research project "Libretti of Learning," investigating the effects of opera training on singers with learning differences. A link to my open-access Music Theory Online article on aural skills pedagogy for post-secondary students with learning differences can be found in my list of publications.
I have given presentations on my research to academic and lay audiences in Canada, the US, England, Scotland, Wales, and Norway.
I believe that music theoretical, analytical, and aural skills are stepping stones for young musicians toward interpretive maturity, and that the ideal classroom provides an inclusive social space for exploration, discovery, and interpretation.
In my music theory classes, I endeavour to provide students with opportunities for active learning, sustained individual reflection, collaborative discovery, and demonstration of learning in innovative, individualized ways. I also believe that today's students deserve the opportunity to hear and explore wonderful music that has been created by musicians from a broad spectrum of experiences and perspectives on the world, including women, indigenous composers, and composers of colour.
Since aural skills training is brain training, I believe it is important to appreciate the natural neurodiversity among any group of students, and the diversity in the kinds of prior training they have had. Improvement is the goal, regardless of a particular student's starting point, and the instructor's role is to provide the challenges and support each student needs to strengthen their skills.
I teach undergraduate music theory and aural skills courses, including MUSIC 151, 251, 255, and 256, and also serve as co-ordinator of aural skills.