SRU music instructor hopes new course ‘charts’ with students


guitar and drum set

The Popular Music Pedagogy course at Slippery Rock University will allow students to familiarize themselves with the use of technology in music and learn the fundamental playing and teaching techniques for all modern band instruments.

Jan. 11, 2017

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - When it comes to music education, lesson plans are more likely to lean on historical figures such as Beethoven and Mozart than contemporary chart toppers like Maroon 5 or Florida Georgia Line.

Cassandra Eisenreich, music education and performance instructor at Slippery Rock University, is working to reverse this academic trend through a uniquely-crafted summer course, "Popular Music Pedagogy."

The three-credit course, which acts as an interactive workshop, "serves as an introduction to implementing and maintaining modern band programs at all levels," according to Eisenreich.

Cassandra Eisenreich


"I don't want to give anyone the wrong impression," Eisenreich said. "Mozart and the classical composers are of course entirely valid and vital. But too often we attempt to immerse students in a genre of music that is not an important part of their everyday lives."

Eisenreich's brainchild - with a goal of livening and diversifying a college student's musical experience - will allow participants to familiarize themselves with the use of technology in music and learn the fundamental playing and teaching techniques for all modern band instruments including: guitar, keyboard, drums, vocals and bass.

"Following graduation, many of my students go on to teach in inner city schools," said Eisenreich. "Music is a perfect way to cross subcultural boundaries, which is why this course is so wonderful. Our goal is to get our students as excited about music as possible while providing a music education experience that will be as diverse as the children they will one day teach."

The program's student-centered approach will provide instant music-making experiences through improvisational activities, recreating familiar popular music selections and creating new compositions based on style/genre interests.

Participants will use their new pedagogical knowledge and instrumental skill set to perform original songs they create during the course.

Cassidy Shipley, a senior from Moon Township, was one of the first students to register for the class. In the future, she intends to apply the knowledge she acquires from the course as an elementary music teacher.

"Being able to learn how to reach children through the music they enjoy is what I'm really looking forward to," said Shipley, a music education and flute major. "I'm excited to learn from a different perspective."

Joining Eisenreich as course co-instructor will be Bryan Powell. Powell serves as director of programs at Little Kids Rock, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring weekly education classes; expanding music programs; and innovating teaching methods to include "children's knowledge of popular music forms such as rock, pop, blues, hip-hop, country, reggae and R&B."

To Powell, the course is a "sustainable" way for music education to take the next step.

"Our founder, David Wish, said his ultimate goal is to go out of business," Powell said. "If colleges and universities begin taking on the goals Little Rock embodies, training the next generation of K-12 educators, our work can be carried on more efficiently without the need for a nonprofit organization."

Chase Upchurch, a sophomore music education and music therapy major from Titusville, looks forward to being an active part of carrying out Wish's vision.

"The music education field is not the same one that our teachers were trained in," said Upchurch. "Today, our primary goal, is trying to connect students together from all walks of life. Music helps us in speaking their language in a comfortable way."

Powell and Eisenreich not only expect to reach registered students like Shipley and Upchurch, but current music educators and performers as well. As part of the course's final session, a workshop for local K-12 bands, choirs, club leaders and other music trainers will be offered.

"The workshop is a great way to engage the community and establish connections between the next generation of music educators and those already established in the workforce," said Powell. "SRU provides a great resource to initiate such relationships"

Classes will be in session May 17-21, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and are open to all University students. The first 15 students to register will receive a free acoustic guitar, courtesy of Little Kids Rock.

For additional information and to register, visit:

MEDIA CONTACT: Maizee Zaccone | 724.738.2091 |