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Music Theory and Composition Lecturer Mark Feezell Brings Clarity to Music

Project That Began in High School Comes to Fruition for Feezell

by Katrina Leshan (B.M. Guitar and Performance and Music Education, 2013)

The faculty at the Meadows School of the Arts are a wonderful example of what the students studying education strive to become. They teach efficiently and effectively, they make time for their students, and they are passionate about what they do. Dr. Mark Feezell, Lecturer in Music Theory and Composition at Meadows, is just one of many talented professors that students have the opportunity to learn from.

Feezell’s interest in music began when he was a child; he played the piano in his family home. Throughout middle school, he played trumpet and later performed in his high school band; its director, Gary Rosenblatt, was one of his favorite teachers. Feezell took two years of theory during high school, which inspired him to create a computer program called Interval Master for his friends, intended to help train the ear on intervals. He also produced a book to go with the program.

“I decided very early on to teach,” Feezell says. “It was my calling.” It was this desire to teach combined with his passion for music that led him to earn his Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees at Texas Christian University. One of Feezell’s proudest accomplishments was earning his Ph.D. in music composition from the University of North Texas in 2003. From there, he held the position of visiting assistant professor of music at Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina, where he stayed for three years, moving to SMU in 2006.

Many of Feezell’s students are enthusiastic about studying with him. “What makes Dr. Feezell so great is that he wants you to be ‘in’ on music theory. He’ll explain away the confusion as many times as necessary, without a hint of impatience or irritation,” says Esther Craven, a first year undergraduate music therapy major. While Feezell has many tested and true ideas about how to run a classroom, he adjusts his methods based on the ways his students learn best. “Students destroy illusions,” Feezell says. “They show you how a great idea can turn into a flop. Teaching is like crash-testing; you drive your ideas into the wall until you find one that works.”

Since high school, Feezell has been working to develop a book that would contain all the information necessary for students to understand music theory. He recently self-published the book, Dr. Feezell's (high-yield) Music Theory, which covers fundamentals, part-writing, chromaticism, form, jazz, contemporary music and more. All of the worksheets are available for free download on LearnMusicTheory.net, Feezell’s website, but the book is a compact way to see all the information at once. Currently Feezell is creating a workbook containing exercises and practice sheets to go with the original publication.

When asked for a piece of advice to give to students, Dr. Feezell said, “Focus on what’s important. Not on what’s pressing, but what’s important. It’s a simple statement, but it’s one of the hardest things to do.”

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