A Message from the Director

JCThe UR Institute for Popular Music (IPM) is dedicated to promoting the scholarly study of popular music, among both students and professional scholars, and at the University of Rochester and around the world. The UR IPM brings together an advisory board of the top experts in the academic study of popular music to help develop effective means of encouraging and facilitating the highest caliber of research work and teaching in a wide range of popular music repertories. The UR IPM strives to enrich the study of popular music at the University of Rochester while also working to support the best research work and teaching in the many fields that popular music touches, most especially musicology, music theory, music education, ethnomusicology, and performance.

The University of Rochester Institute for Popular Music was launched in the fall of 2012; fall of 2018 marks our seven-year anniversary. We are delighted to sponsor an international conference, “Come Together: Fifty Years of Abbey Road,” in partnership with Eastman with sessions in beautiful Hatch Hall and bringing together the world’s top Beatles scholars and experts. Looking back on what I originally envisioned for the UR IPM and comparing it with what we have achieved, I am proud of how much progress we have made to date. 

  • Initiatives accomplished thus far
    • Lecture series. Twenty-two lectures by the country’s leading experts in popular music on a broad range of topics, from civil war songs to hip hop, and from Broadway to country music (here).
    • Concert series. Twelve full-scale concert productions (two per year) with programs organized around specific artists and styles, including The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and more. All concerts feature performances by staff, faculty, and students (here). Fall concerts are jointly sponsored with Eastman, performed in Kilbourn Hall as part of the Rochester Fringe Festival. Spring performances occur in Strong Auditorium on the River Campus.
    • Virtual conference. Many lecture series talks are available in nicely produced videos (here), making for a rich library of information on pop music that can be accessed by anybody anywhere.
    • Online learning. All the videos for my Coursera course on rock music, which have enrolled more than 350,000 students in 170 countries worldwide, are available on the website (here).
    • Proposal for curricular reform. See our proposal for an Integrated Music Curriculum for the Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Music and my essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
    • Engagement with public school teachers. The UR IPM has held two day-long teacher workshops. Videos of some of the talks presents at these events are on the website (entitled Virtual Workshop).
    • Visibility via webpage, YouTube, and AMS/SMT. The UR IPM website offers a rich selection of resources for students, teachers, scholars, and fans. The UR IPM YouTube channel won a national award from the SIGUCCS in 2015 for its superior content and outreach. The IPM has sponsored an event at the national conferences of the American Musicological Society and the Society for Music Theory in 2015, 2016, and 2017. These events have raised awareness of the IPM considerably in the fields of musicology and music theory.
    • In Conversation series. The UR IPM occasionally presents interviews with renowned artists and performers (here). Interviews to date have included John Densmore (The Doors), Steven Page (Barenaked Ladies), Bill Flanagan (MTV), and Kara Dioguardi (American Idol). 

While these successes represent a very strong start for the UR IPM, there remain additional elements that were part of the original vision for the IPM that will be pursued in the next five years.

  • Initiatives moving forward
    • BMus in popular music performance at Eastman. This degree has been designed and will seek all required faculty and administrative approvals during the 2019-2020 academic year. Pending approval, student recruiting will begin in fall 2020 and the first students will begin the program in fall 2021.
    • Online courses. Working with the Institute for Music Leadership, the IPM will make for-credit online courses broadly available to students. The first of these, The History of Rock, is scheduled to debut in January 2020.  Follow-up courses will include The Music of the Beatles and The Music of the Rolling Stones.  These courses will be revenue generating.
    • Pre-doc fellowships. I would like to offer one (or more) pre-doc fellowship every year, allowing a Ph.D. student from another institution to spend a year in residence in Rochester.
    • Post-doc fellowships. I would like to offer one (or more) post-doc fellowship every year, allowing a recently completed Ph.D. to spend a year in Rochester.
    • Fostering a community in popular music studies. The presence of pre-doc and post-doc fellows, combined with the Eastman faculty and graduate students interested in popular music, will foster a sense of intellectual community, facilitated by regular get-togethers and study sessions.
    • Supporting Eastman graduate students. The new online courses promise to create employment opportunities for ESM grad students working in popular music. I will also strive to create stipend awards to support students in the Ph.D. program who are studying popular music, as well as one five-year dedicated graduate scholarship per year (five total).

This is an exciting time to be developing initiatives--a time of change and opportunity—and we are eager to do all we can to promote the mission of the UR IPM. Please check back with us often to see what new and exciting things are happening here.

John Covach, Director

In the News

For more from John Covach and the Institute of Popular Music, follow us on Facebook!


Rolling Stones 50 Years of Satisfaction Concert, January 24, 2015