Dr. Jena Root on The Beatles and Music Theory | Excellence at Work

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — One day, at the age of 11, Dr. Jena Root was riding in her father’s truck when a song by the Beatles came on the radio. Her father told her to listen to a particular chord in the song, which he said he always found surprising, no matter how many times he heard it.

“What I didn’t realize was that I had discovered music theory at that moment,” Root says.

“I decided right then and there I wanted to figure out what the name of that chord was.”

In this episode of “Excellence at Work,” Dr. Root, music theory coordinator at the Dana School of Music at Youngstown State University, talks about her recent appearance on the apple podcast “Note Doctors,” and how that moment in her father’s truck led to to pursue a career teaching music.

Dr. Root is a Professor and Music Theory Coordinator for the Dana School of Music at Youngstown State University. Her service in higher education has spanned more than two decades in the music theory and aural skills classroom, including positions at Shenandoah Conservatory, Syracuse University, Yong Siew Toh Conservatory at the National University of Singapore, and St. Olaf College. Her teaching interests include improvisation, technology for theory and ear training practice, and the integration of popular music and music by women into the undergraduate theory core.

She is the author of Applied Music Fundamentals: Writing, Singing, and Listening (Oxford University Press) and Applied Music Theory: A Practical Guide for Writing, Listening, and Understanding (OUP, forthcoming). Her work has also appeared in the Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy, and she has presented papers at the Advanced Placement (AP) National Conference, College Music Society National Conference, Society for Music Theory (SMT) National Conference, Association for Technology in Music Instruction (ATMI), and the Ann Arbor Symposium. She currently serves as co-chair of the Editorial Review Board for the Music Theory Pedagogy Online and as a reader for the Advanced Placement Music Theory Exam.

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