Introduction to Music of the U.S.A.

I.     Course Prefix/Number: MUS 145

       Course Name: Introduction to Music of the U.S.A.

       Credits: 3 (3 lecture; 0 lab)

II.    Prerequisite

Recommended: HUM 125

III.   Course (Catalog) Description

Course introduces development of folk, popular and art music in the United States from colonial times to the present. Content includes survey of psalmody, concert life, European and African influences, and the social conditions that produced the first “popular” music, from ragtime to jazz.

IV.   Learning Objectives

  1. Identify various styles of music in the United States.
  2. Explain the combined sources of (European and African) influences contributed their individual characteristics to make American music truly unique.
  3. Distinguishes between popular and classical music.

V.    Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

Students and employees at Oakton Community College are required to demonstrate academic integrity and follow Oakton's Code of Academic Conduct. This code prohibits:

• cheating,
• plagiarism (turning in work not written by you, or lacking proper citation),
• falsification and fabrication (lying or distorting the truth),
• helping others to cheat,
• unauthorized changes on official documents,
• pretending to be someone else or having someone else pretend to be you,
• making or accepting bribes, special favors, or threats, and
• any other behavior that violates academic integrity.

There are serious consequences to violations of the academic integrity policy. Oakton's policies and procedures provide students a fair hearing if a complaint is made against you. If you are found to have violated the policy, the minimum penalty is failure on the assignment and, a disciplinary record will be established and kept on file in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for a period of 3 years.

Please review the Code of Academic Conduct and the Code of Student Conduct, both located online at

VI.   Sequence of Topics

Representative topics such as:

  1. The Popular Tradition
    Course Description
    What is popular music?
    What is cultivated music?
    American Indian music
    The colony days: Early New England Psalmody, Yankee Tunesmiths
    William Billings, Shaped notation
    Film: Discovering American Indian Music-16 mm. and Music of Williamsburg. (OCC 16 mm)
  2. Early Musical Theater in America. The Ballad Opera. The Beggar’s Opera. Minstrelsy, Stephen Foster, Dan Emmett, Vaudeville and Burlesque.
  3. Popular Music Pays Off. Afro-European Heritage.
    Vocal Music: Gospel: Classic Blues, The Phonograph as a musical instrument. Ragtime, Scott Joplin, etc.
    Video: The Parting of Ways VT-1276
  4. Jazz: New Orleans: Storyville. Up the Mississippi. Early Bands of the Teens. Hot Jazz and Blues of the ‘20s.
    Louis Armstrong. King Oliver, Fletcher Henderson, Bessie Smith, etc. New Line Video: Chicago Blues VT-1268 and St. Louis Blues. (OCC 16mm)
  5. Jazz Becomes a Lady. George Gershwin: Songs, Concert Works, Musicals. The American Musical Grows-Up.
    Jerome Kern and Show Boat: New Line Video: The Known and the Unknown VT-1277.
  6. The Swing Era and Bands of the 1930s. The Movie Musical. Escape with Jeanette and Nelson; Fred and Ginger. New Line Video: The Golden Age of Hollywood VT-1297.
  7. Jazz Cools-Off, Enter Bop: Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Kenton. The Small Ensembles of the 1940s. King Cole Trio, etc. Post War Ballads. Film: New Line Black Music From Then Till Now. (U. of Ill. 16mm)
  8. The Basics of Rock and Roll. Rhythm and Blues, Country Pop. Elvis, the British Invasion, the 60s and 70s Frank Zappa. Fusion: The 80s. Video: Sound or Unsound: The Development of Folk and Rock VT-1278.
  9. The Cultivated Tradition
    Music of the 19th Century. Imitations of the European Models. Louis Moreau Goschalk, Horatio Parker, Theodore Thomas, Edward MacDowell, George Chadwick, Symphonies with a Tom-Tom. Film: New Line New York Philharmonic; What is American Music with Leonard Bernstein: (16mm U. of Ill.)
  10. Charles Ives: The Bad Boy Genius of American Music. Henry Cowell. Charles Thomlinson Griffes. Film: New Line American Music From Folk to Jazz to Pop: (16 mm U. of Ill.)
  11. The 1920s and 30s. Nadia Boulanger and Her American Pupils: Gershwin, Copland. Sowerby, Hanson, etc.
  12. The Search for the Great American Opera: Some Hits Many Misses. The Ballad of Baby Doe by Douglas Moore: Highlights. Musical or Opera?
  13. William Schuman, Alan Hovhaness, Leonard Bernstein, Walter Piston. Mark Blitzstein, Ellott Carter. Film: U.S.A. Composers: American Traditions: (16 mm U. of Ill.)
  14. Music for Film: The Symphonic Film Score. Hollywood and the Serious Musician. The Jazz Film Score.
  15. The Rebels: John Cage, Harry Partch. Morton Subotnik. Electronic Music Computers. Film: Discovering Electronic Music (16 mm U. of Ill.)
  16. Recent Trends: The New Romanticism. Phillip Glass, Steve Reich, William Russo. Review.
  17. All papers due final exam

VII.  Methods of Instruction

Methods will include lectures, class discussion, films, recordings, field trips, and musical demonstrations when feasible.

Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

VIII. Course Practices Required

Students will be required to do written assignments illustrating the different styles and forms of American Music.

IX.   Instructional Materials

Note: Current textbook information for each course and section is available on Oakton's Schedule of Classes.

Representative textbook such as:
America’s Musical Landscape by Gene Sarris; Publisher, Brown Benchmark

X.    Methods of Evaluating Student Progress

  1. Written exams
  2. Quizzes
  3. Written Assignments
  4. Final Project
  5. The following is an example of a student’s grades during the semester:
    1. Four examinations - 90 on each
    2. Two quizzes - 88 on each (88 average)
    3. Grade of paper - B (85)
    4. Three written assignments - 88 on each (88 average)
    5. Grade of Final exam – 90
      85 - Grade of paper
      90 - Final exam
      535 = 89 Average
  6. A = 90 - 100
    B = 80 - 89
    C = 70 - 79
    D = 60 - 69
    F = Below 60

XI.   Other Course Information

If you have a documented learning, psychological, or physical disability you may be entitled to reasonable academic accommodations or services. To request accommodations or services, contact the Access and Disability Resource Center at the Des Plaines or Skokie campus. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements. The College will not waive any essential skill or requirement of a course or degree program.

Oakton Community College is committed to maintaining a campus environment emphasizing the dignity and worth of all members of the community, and complies with all federal and state Title IX requirements.

Resources and support for
  • pregnancy-related and parenting accommodations; and
  • victims of sexual misconduct
can be found at

Resources and support for LGBTQ+ students can be found at

Electronic video and/or audio recording is not permitted during class unless the student obtains written permission from the instructor. In cases where recordings are allowed, such content is restricted to personal use only. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited. Personal use is defined as use by an individual student for the purpose of studying or completing course assignments.

For students who have been approved for audio and/or video recording of lectures and other classroom activities as a reasonable accommodation by Oakton’s Access Disabilities Resource Center (ADRC), applicable federal law requires instructors to permit those recordings. Such recordings are also limited to personal use. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited.

Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action through the Code of Student Conduct.