New music theory professor to work with popular music program

July 10, 2020

Music theorist Nicholas Shea will join the ASU School of Music, Dance and Theatre as assistant professor of music theory beginning in August 2020.

“We are thrilled to have attracted Nicholas Shea to our faculty,” said Heather Landes, director of the school. “Dr. Shea’s research interests in popular music performance practice and meter perception complement our diverse offerings and will contribute greatly to our curriculum.” Nicholas Shea Nicholas Shea Download Full Image

Shea specializes in the relationship between performance practice and the transmission of musical style. His research investigates how instrument performance and the body can be used to better understand how styles, such as popular music, are developed and transmitted to listeners in real time.  

“The new popular music degree program in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre is exciting for me as there is rarely room made in traditional music conservatories for musicians who may have not had access to formal instruction before enrolling,” said Shea, a self-taught bass player. “Because the school is creating a program for popular-music artists who are not formally trained and do not necessarily hold the same priorities as music theorists, I knew I wanted to be a part of this important step forward.” 

His recent work on guitar performance practice in popular music employs a variety of interdisciplinary techniques, including motion-capture study, corpus development and analysis and close analytical readings.

In addition to popular music performance practice, Shea also conducts studies on meter perception in19th-century French and Italian opera, in bluegrass music, and during moments of harmonic ambiguity.   

As a graduate of three different state-school music programs, he has performed, studied and taught music in a variety of settings, from ensemble performing and jazz trio gigging to elementary and high school student teaching.

Shea holds a bachelor's degree in music education from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, a master’s degree in music theory from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a PhD in music theory from Ohio State University.

“Teaching music has always been an important part of my identity as a musician, and I am consistently energized by the time I spend the in the classroom,” Shea said.

With a background in jazz and popular music, Shea said he is able to provide students with the resources to study repertoires and composers that have traditionally been overlooked in music theory. He also uses music cognition training to foster student engagement with more perceptually accessible features of musical organization such as timbre, texture and rhythm.

Shea plans to continue his research on instrument performance and style at ASU and looks forward to working with the theory faculty to reshape the theory core curriculum, in addition to offering graduate courses on popular music, contemporary performance practice and empirical music analysis.

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music


ASU Prep Digital now offers full-time K–8 virtual school option

July 10, 2020

As school reopenings remain uncertain in Arizona and beyond due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ASU Prep Digital is rolling out full-time online school options for elementary school students, ready to serve thousands of parents scrambling to make decisions about school, work and health. 

ASU Prep Digital launched in 2017 as a public charter school for grades nine through 12, but on Aug. 10, 2020, the first classes of kindergarteners through eighth graders will gather online to learn from the school system’s rigorous and personalizable curriculum that serves more than 33,000 full- and part-time enrollees throughout Arizona, the United States and internationally. A child logging on to a computer Download Full Image

More than 400 parents registered for the first of several virtual information sessions June 30, asking questions ahead of the July 13 deadline to enroll. ASU Prep Digital Executive Director Jill Rogier led the session and fielded questions about cost, curriculum and logistics.

Rogier shared that Arizona students attend free; out-of-state tuition is $6,900 per year but may vary for international students. Enrollment won’t be capped, but there likely won’t be spaces available beyond the enrollment deadline based on current interest levels. Class sizes for kindergarten will be about 20 students and about 25 for first through eighth grade. ASU Prep Digital teachers are all certified and highly qualified and have an average of 15 years of teaching experience, and as a public charter the school offers special education, speech therapy and staff dedicated to gifted students as well as “specials” like art and music, clubs and more.

The school is AdvancEd accredited as well as NCAA approved for student athletes. ASU Prep Digital uses adaptive diagnostic indicators that allow students to have individualized Lexile (reading) and quantile (math) scores that individualize learning experiences, offering students the chance to get one-on-one help when they need it or take courses outside of their grade level if they have a special interest or an area they’re excelling in. 

Rogier said that overall the school’s advantages to families are that it’s customizable so that every student can reach their potential and that it’s a dynamic program that cultivates curious learners and critical thinkers. She knows how critical the customization is — from personal experience. 

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Media Relations and Strategic Communications

“Adaptive software supports us to be able to personalize instruction and tailor learning to meet the needs of your child,” she said. “I’m a parent as well. I have a gifted child. I have a child with dyslexia. I understand that one size does not fit all.”

Though most of the equipment you need is simply a device (touch-screen tablets are recommended for the primary grades), connectivity and a few standard classroom supplies, Rogier said that parents shouldn’t expect kids to be in front of a screen all day. 

A day in the life of an elementary ASU Prep Digital student would see students working from about 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day, but that just means 35 hours of learning a week, which includes guided, tactile learning and social interaction with peers and teachers. Students meet several times a day with the same homeroom teacher either as a class, in small groups or one-on-one, but along with the live lessons they might be instructed to go outside to get a rock for a geology lesson or go to the kitchen to get food to illustrate fractions. They’ll also have work and projects to complete independently and at their own pace. 

“We know that learning happens all the time, not just during lessons,” Rogier said. 

Lessons are recorded in case students miss them, and standards-based core subjects of English language arts, math, science and social studies are covered every day. 

Associate Vice President of ASU Educational Outreach and Student Services Amy McGrath said during the information session that rigor is what separates ASU Prep Digital from other online K–12 programs she’s seen because of the quality of educators, the infrastructure and the pedagogical philosophy. 

“We use innovative tools and wrap them around our rigorous ELA, math, science and social studies curriculum, but it’s more than a bunch of worksheets. We are project-based learning,” McGrath said. “We will drive your students to deeper and more authentic learning.”

Learn more about enrollment, curriculum and more at the ASU Prep Digital website or join an upcoming information session. The deadline for fall K–8 enrollment is July 13.

Hannah Moulton Belec

Marketing content specialist, Educational Outreach and Student Services