Published: 19 July 2017

University of Surrey hosts ‘Study Day on Teaching and Creativity in Popular Music’

Academics and practitioners coverge to discuss 'Teaching Creativity' within music.

On 10 June, the Department of Music and Media, University of Surrey, hosted a ‘Study Day on Teaching and Creativity in Popular Music’ as part of the London and South-East England 21st Century Music Practice Research Network.

The Study Day was organised in response to the changing environment of the academic profession in the UK, which is currently witnessing an era of unprecedented accountability regarding the quality of higher education teaching and the student experience. It provided a forum for a focussed discussion of issues surrounding ‘Teaching Creativity’ as understood in two interrelated senses: the delivery of teaching of creative practice in popular music performance, composition, and production; and creative approaches to pedagogic practice itself.

The day was attended by some 25 music academics and practitioners representing institutions including the University of Surrey, London College of Music, City University of London, University of Liverpool, Leeds College of Music, Oxford Brookes University, University of Westminster, the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance, and Bath Spa University as well as visiting scholars from Cuba.

The event opened with two insightful papers, ‘Learning to Learn: an ecological approach to teaching’ by Liz Pipe and Simon Zagorski-Thomas (London College of Music) and ‘Blank Canvas: (CH)Art Schools – from Itten to Eno or Dada to DA DA DA’ by Simon Strange (Bath Spa University). Following this, a broad-ranging roundtable addressed the subject ‘Pedagogical Practice in Popular Music Teaching in Higher Education: Creative approaches and continuing challenges’, with speakers includingChristian Kennett (University of Westminster), Monica Esslin-Peard (University of Liverpool), Christopher Wiley (University of Surrey) and Remy Martin (Leeds College of Music/University of Surrey).

The afternoon session comprised a series of innovative “teach-in” workshops during which facilitators presented aspects of their teaching techniques in a variety of areas of music practice. Alex Loveless (London College of Music) discussed ‘New Musical Theatre Writing in an Educational Context’. Bill Thompson (University of Surrey) presented ‘Do it Wrong: Repurposing Technology in Inspire Learning.’ Angela Blacklaw (The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance) addressed ‘Universal Truths: Archetypes in Contemporary Songwriting.’ And finally, Mike Exarchos( University of Westminster) contemplated ‘Hybrid Hip-Hop Production as Pedagogical Paradigm.’

The Study Day was very well-received by all attendees, eliciting feedback such as ‘stimulating and enjoyable’, ‘some great discussions and presentations’, ‘a wonderful day’ and ‘a blast all round’. The lead organiser, Christopher Wiley, said that ‘It was fantastic that the event covered such a wide cross-section of popular music teaching, encompassing the fields of musicology, songwriting and production as well as genres as diverse as musical theatre and hip hop. I hope that it will prove to have established strong foundations on which to develop subsequent events and other activity around teaching and creativity within the context of the research network.’


For further information, please contact Christopher Wiley:



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