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#MUS654 (2014 archive)

Photo credit below…

Yesterday I had one of those watershed moments that may have just shifted the way I think about everything. This has been baking for a long time and it had that nudge that has just hatched it into reality. Not only is it not what it seems, but there are layers and they come with zest, claws, the sounds of the conversations not yet spoken, and thoughts not yet thought.


Please, I am not off my rocker, but honestly there are patterns and habits and seasons, and sometimes everything seems predictable, and we might think that the path is obvious and this is where the path leads, because it’s obvious, right? Well no. We haven’t been here before, and even though the earth keeps turning and the sun keeps rising (in about 15 minutes to be exact) but we haven’t been here before. Neither of us have lived this very moment of now yet, and that means that it is new and sometimes people say it is what it is’, and to them I say- Well, not yet, not for me. MUS654 is not a lime.

Let me give a bit of background… I am a musician, and what I (personally) like more than anything is connecting with people, lighting a spark, and watching it grow. One way I can do this is through music and performing, through teaching, and through sharing my own learning experience with others. I think a lot. There have been many people who have left an imprint on me over the years, but my teaching guru was and is Hans Jensen.

A cello lesson with Hans Jensen
A cello lesson with Hans Jensen. Photo by Laura Ritchie CC attribution, non-comercial, share alike

He is a visionary; he doesn’t just light a spark, he sets fires in his students and they shine like nothing you have seen. I think this is probably the fruit of a seed he planted some 20 years ago.

What is MUS654 about?

MUS654 is a real class that happens at the University of Chichester. I teach the class. It’s a fairly new class where students map out a year of music learning and all that goes with it. Last year was the first year it was ever taught and it is for final year music students, and prerequisites meant there were only a few enrolled. I want to change that. I want to open it up. To whom? To youm, well, to you and you, and him and her and everyone everywhere. The point of the class is to build something that isn’t already there, and what better way to do it than to invite the world. MUS654 is about setting the scene, creating a template for achievement and laying the path for learning. I designed it as an undergraduate music course where students create a curriculum for a year of learning.

It is a funny thing – in music, there are plenty of published books, but there isn’t a textbook to learn an instrument. There is a National Curriculum for Music, but it doesn’t teach you the refined specific skills of learning an instrument. There isn’t a single specific catch-all tailored textbook. Sure there are more than a few books with the ABC’s of guitar playing, but then there is a completely different ABC to singing, and actually that ABC book might not suit everyone, and who wrote those books? Do music teachers really think about that? Was it a commission? A spinoff? A quick and cheerful kids book with pictures? …but does it have pedagogy? Learning is not a pre-packaged thing. It is about you in your now and how you can make connections and meaning that are relevant to you, your life, and your experience.

MUS654 sets about to think about those things and challenges students to design their own curriculum, using established repertoire and ‘tunes’, but also making their own and interfacing with all that technology offers- giffs, gaffs, ringtones and all. I don’t know of any courses in music doing this, and by throwing the doors open we’ll see what happens. So this is a jump in the deep end, but I’m not reinventing the wheel. There are some pretty slick rides out there that MUS654 will catch a lift with along the way, dipping into the fantastic resources of #ds106 and working with the good folk at #Phonar. The plan is to broaden the horizon, share and grow the information that’s out there, and to create something bigger than any of us could dream alone.

It all starts on the 11th of September…

Cello/cat/lime photos taken from and , and layered in photoshop under the Creative Commons license

5 thoughts on “#MUS654 (2014 archive)”

  1. Hi Laura – this sounds amazing and I’m very keen to see this type of musical community take shape! David K connected us because I’ve been doing something similar with a for-credit introduction to guitar class at my high school in Vancouver, British Columbia, for the past few years. While we are focused on improving strumming abilities, the fact that guitar is something of a perfect layperson’s musical entry point gives the course a unique view into the act of taking up music.

    As such I’ve tried to make the course assignment’s as much about charting one’s own personal course of study as much as possible, and strived to build a course environment that enables the type of cross-fertilization and creativity you’re talking about here, occasionally with pretty inspiring results as open-online participants have joined us to share what they are learning/playing/singing. A particularly memorable riff was captured here (though some of the links point to our old site):

    Our new work is hosted here:

    Cheers – great to meet you and hear about this wonderful project! Keep us posted!


  2. Pingback: About Phonar 2014 « PHONAR – An open undergraduate photography class

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