Publication Date

Summer 8-11-2021


This thesis examines how incorporating popular songwriting is an effective way to teach keyboard skills to music majors in a traditional undergraduate music school. Basic keyboard skills taught in group piano are similar to the skills used in writing and performing a popular song. Connecting students to popular music inspires students and keeps them motivated to practice keyboard skills that are more tedious but considered necessary for learning the instrument. This thesis is divided into two parts. Part I offers the history of pedagogical trends in group piano from the eighteenth century until present day, focusing specifically on practicality, improvisation, and composition. This section also discusses the need for a change in the field of group piano teaching, relying on research that suggests the inclusion of more creative assignments in music schools will better prepare music students for employment upon graduation in the twenty-first century. Part I explains how creative skills like composition and improvisation are currently taught in the group piano classroom as well as why these methods may be ineffective and suggests teaching popular songwriting to students can teach beginning keyboard skills in a creative way that keeps them motivated. Part II of this thesis presents information gathered through an informal study in the Fall Semester of 2020 and Spring Semester of 2021 at the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University. Chapter Five details weekly exercises implemented alongside two different textbooks. Each exercise is rated based on observations of student reactions and student performance. Chapter Six concludes with a review of the semester final project, suggestions for how to conduct a more in-depth research study on this topic, and other final observations about the field study.

Major Mentor

Kristian Klefstad, D. M. A.

Second Mentor

Robert Marler, D. M. A.

Third Mentor

Terry Klefstad, Ph. D.


Music, School of


Music and Performing Arts, College of

Document Type



Master of Music (MM)

Degree Level


Degree Grantor

Belmont University

Included in

Composition Commons