Music Theory Instructor Brings Innovation

Patrick Johnson participates in yearlong MSU academy for instructional excellence

Patrick Johnson, MSU instructor of music theory works with dual masters student in theory and piano Mary Gossell.

Patrick Johnson teaches about 100 students a semester through four music theory classes. But that never stops him from learning the names of every student and exploring new and innovative ways to teach.

Because of his quest for excellence in the classroom, the instructor of music theory  in the MSU College of Music was chosen to participate in the Walter and Pauline Adams Academy for Instructional Excellence and Innovation. Now in its ninth year, the academy brings together a cross-disciplinary group of up to 15 instructors for a yearlong fellowship focused on teaching and learning.

"It's a great privilege to be selected," says Johnson who began teaching at MSU as a doctoral student in 2013. "I'm most excited about exploring with others the latest research on what we know about learning and teaching."

Johnson says he is also looking forward to gaining perspectives from instructors in different disciplines. He hopes to apply their methods and insights as he continually strives to be the most effective teacher he can be.

"For instance, someone who designs a class for physics will have ideas that might not have occurred to me," Johnson says. "I'm interested in brainstorming and seeing what we can learn from each other."

Associate Professor and Chair of Music Theory Michael Callahan was among Johnson's nominators for the 2016-17 cohort. Callahan remembers Johnson's strengths as a graduate teaching assistant, and recommended that Johnson be retained as an instructor after earning his DMA.

"It has been a delight to watch his transition from a student in our graduate program to a fully fledged colleague and highly effective pedagogue," Callahan says. "Pat's skill set checks all of the boxes of effective music theory teaching. He is student-centered, a first-rate musician, a clear communicator, and a warm and generous person."

Johnson received the Excellence in Teaching Citation from MSU as a graduate teaching assistant. He holds a Master of Music in both piano performance and music theory from MSU, and completed his DMA in piano performance at MSU in 2016. Johnson performs regularly throughout the Midwest as a solo, chamber and orchestral pianist. An avid orchestral musician, he is the principal pianist for the Michigan Philharmonic and the Lansing Symphony Orchestra. 

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