Mock conference preps music theory grad students for presentations

February 2, 2018 - MSU Communications Office

This spring, four MSU Music Theory students have earned the chance to present papers at ten different national conferences around the country. In preparation for their presentations, the Music Theory area created an innovative way for the students to prepare for their presentations – a mock conference.

"It was a team effort, including the four presenters who did a lot to help put this together as well,” says Michael Callahan, associate professor and chair of the Music Theory area of the College of Music.

Four grad students working togetherThe four students, Alexandrea Jonker, Stefanie Bilidas, Lynnsey Lambrecht and Mary Gossell, are mentored by all of the Music Theory faculty. Each of the students will present on one or two topics of their own discovery. Dr. Callahan and Assistant Professor Cara Stroud provided instruction and guidance on the research projects. “The mock conference celebrates their work, and it’s also a great mentoring opportunity,” says Callahan. “By presenting first at MSU, the four students will receive feedback from faculty and peers.”

Jonker will be presenting two topics: “An Argument for Error Detection: Why and How it should be Taught in the Undergraduate Aural Skills Curriculum” and “The Id and the Ego: A Psychoanalysis of Schubert’s String Quartet in C Major, D. 956”. She will be presenting at the College Music Society Great Lakes Conference, University of Arizona Graduate Student Conference and the Temple University Graduate Student Conference.

“I’m extremely grateful to the Theory Area for putting together this mock conference to help all of us prepare for our first conference experience,” Jonker says.

Jonker credits the inspiration for both of her papers to MSU classes she took. “One was from Dr. Callahan’s theory pedagogy class and the other was from Dr. Stroud’s narrative theory class. Both topics came from different things that we were reading in the class and then developed from there.”

Bilidas will be present her lecture, “Crafting the Consonance: A Case Study of Selected Tap Improvisation Solos,” which explores both her interest in music theory as well as tap dance.

“Tap improvisation is an area that’s been understudied in music,” Bilidas says, “so I really wanted to take what was already occurring in tap circles and merge it into the academic discipline of music theory.”

Bilidas looks forward to presenting at the Yale Graduate Music Symposium and the University of Toronto Graduate Music Conference this spring. She found the mock conference to be helpful in her preparation.

“The mock conference went really well. I was happy about it,” she says. “There are things to tweak about the presentation, but overall I think I was able to communicate command of the subject matter from a music and dance perspective.”

Lambrecht, a recent alumna of the Music Theory program, will be presenting two papers at conferences in Ohio, Arizona and The Music by Women Festival in Columbus, Missouri.

“I am very grateful to have these opportunities to present my research across the country and represent MSU at three conferences,” says Lambrecht.

One of Lambrecht’s lectures, “Teaching and Learning Early Twentieth-Century Techniques at the Keyboard,” outlines a technique that she hopes to one day use in her own classroom. “I really fell in love with doing idioms for 21st century theory that I had never done in courses I had taken, so implementing these ideas would be great for a teacher who’s teaching that course. I hope one day to do that.”

Gossell studies both piano performance and music theory. She presented her lecture, “Acceptance of Tragedy in Chopin’s Fantasy op. 49,” at the mock conference. Gossell will be presenting at the Indiana University Graduate Theory Symposium and hopes to continue her research beyond presenting at the conference.

“The project emerged from the narrative seminar last semester that Dr. Stroud taught. I was immediately drawn to the Chopin piece I analyzed, the Fantasy in F Minor,” says Gossell. “I’d like to explore more generally the implications of narrative analysis to performance. That’s a further interest of mine.”

As the students head out to present their lectures, continuing support from the Music Theory faculty backs them.

“We’re happy that they’re well prepared,” Callahan says, “and I think it’ll go great for them at these conferences.”