Expanding the Canon for Art Song Literature Classes Initiative


NATS recognizes that bringing curricular elements into alignment with best teaching practices in the field is an important and ongoing endeavor among colleagues. We hope that these resources will provide support to our colleagues by offering a template for teaching music literature classes with an eye towards more inclusivity and equity. In an era when students have access to the same resources as teachers (Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music, etc.), what are teachers offering the class beyond a listening list which prioritizes some music above all other? We must move beyond mere introduction to the literature to teaching the analytical skills and historic/cultural context in order to more fully understand and engage with the music. Students need these skills to understand all music, even the yet undiscovered and forthcoming. Herein we have constructed a thematic modular approach to the course through which we strengthen skills rather than simply build repertoire. There is an emphasis on traditionally under-represented composers in the repertoire presented which teachers can use instead of, or in addition to, the works in the more traditional canon. In this way, we are able to address the concern of adding more repertoire to the class and replace some of the “old” with the “new.” Thus, we broaden students’ musical understanding and deepen their appreciation for a wide variety of musical styles and traditions, leaving them better prepared for the music they will encounter throughout their careers. In taking this pedagogical approach, we diversify the representation of composers and cultures in the works studied, and simultaneously encourage more exploration and creativity from our students. Nonetheless, in suggesting what might be included we know we have excluded things. Our hope is that we offer a way in which to remove the judgement of what is deemed more and less worthy for inclusion in a traditional canon. Above all else, we hope this approach sparks curiosity, for that is what lasts beyond the classroom.

How to Use These Resources

Before accessing the resources below, NATS encourages its members to first read the “Summary of the Expanding the Canon for Art Song Literature Classes Initiative,” (first downloadable item, below)  in order to understand the genesis of these resources as truly crowd-sourced. As such, these resources are not considered definitive, but rather, living documents that will develop with input from both current and future NATS members.

It is important to establish some common terminology and understanding of how poetry and text are constructed at the onset of the course so there is a place from which students can build their analytical skills throughout the course. The six ETC modules are expected to be a model for how one might structure a course where teachers bring their own expertise to achieve the student learning outcomes listed in the sample syllabus. Each module has an overall description along with individual student learning outcomes. The syllabus also includes a course description, a week-to-week outline for a one-semester course and a few suggested readings and assignments.  Teachers are expected to tailor this program to suit their class and they may even wish to create their own modules to add or substitute with what is listed. The ETC Song Spreadsheet has tabs for each module and a list of possible songs to use in teaching that module. Score sources and audio/video links are included for most selections. The ETC Additional Resources page includes a variety of print and web-based resources, such as useful anthologies, databases, books, and articles. The resources are not meant to be exhaustive in any way and they skew toward the works of under-represented composers, with the assumption that most voice teachers have a sense of the old canon and how to include those materials. All of these documents are meant to be living documents. Should members have suggestions for inclusion on Additional Resources or ETC Songsheet spreadsheets, you may fill out the form, but please research all of the required elements for inclusion. Only suggestions with all of the information required for the spreadsheet will be considered.

Downloadable Resources

Summary of the Expanding the Canon for Art Song Literature Classes Initiative

Syllabus (includes learning outcomes, sample assignments, listening, and readings)

Sample Assignments (in addition to those in the syllabus)

ETC Modules (full document)

  • Module I: Art Song in Nature
  • Module II: Art Song and Love
  • Module III: Character and Identity Vs. the Raconteur
  • Module IV: Colonialism
  • Module V: Nationalism
  • Module VI: Art Song and Oppression

ETC Song Spreadsheet - (via Excel icon Excel file - tabs by module)

ETC Additional Resources - (via Excel icon Excel file) 

Suggested Additions

If you have a suggestion, please submit via the Google form below:

ETC Additional Resources Spreadsheet form.

ETC Song Spreadsheet form.