Daniel Party's music appreciation class is a trip—literally. Only about half the music that the Saint Mary's assistant professor surveys with students are classical works. The rest—from American Jazz to Chinese opera to Yoruba drumming to Qur'anic chant—takes them on a musical voyage around the world.
That's no surprise, given Party's global background. A native of Santiago, Chile, he grew up in a musical family. After finishing undergraduate degrees in physics and classical guitar, he came to the United States to pursue his Ph.D. in musicology . Party's research focuses on the music of Latin America and Latino communities as well as contemporary classical music. He joined the Saint Mary's music faculty in 2005.
“What I like about teaching in a context like this is that I'm teaching our music majors way more than music,” says Party. “There are many days where I feel that music is only about 50 percent of what I'm doing in class. I'm teaching them how to write; I'm teaching them how to think critically. We're talking about music, but sometimes we're talking about culture, art, architecture, issues of gender, issues of race … I feel that learning about all those things will help them no matter what they do.”
“I listen to music almost all day—for fun, for work. As a musicologist, you end up listening to almost everything there is.” These days, that means Ravi Shankar, The Killers, Christina Aguilera, Nina Simone, Tchaikovsky, and Andreas Scholl."
Party's classes are not easy listening. He calls them “writing-intensive”; students call them a lot of work. “ Dr. Party's expectations are exceedingly high, which some people find difficult, but I think it helps push us to do our best—to work hard and really think,” says junior Megan Bolander, who took his music history class. “He is also always willing to help anyone who needs it.”
“Since my area of research is popular music, I keep up with the music they listen to,” Party says. To help students understand a concept like syncopation, he might make connections between Mozart and Britney Spears.
His musical taste, like his course syllabus, is all over the map. “I listen to music almost all day—for fun, for work. As a musicologist, you end up listening to almost everything there is.” These days, that means Ravi Shankar, The Killers, Christina Aguilera, Nina Simone, Tchaikovsky, and Andreas Scholl. Party subscribes to an online music service that allows unlimited listening, but no downloads. That's fine with him. “Music is not something that I want to own,” he says.