About Michael campbell
I’m Michael Campbell, a pianist, author, and teacher. I grew up as a pianist who soon developed a strong interest in musical style—whether it was the music of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, or bebop, bossa nova and the Beatles. Although trained only in classical music, I spent considerable time playing in jazz combos and garage bands in high school and college. After graduating from Amherst College, I spent three years in the Naval Academy Band, where playing jazz and rock was part of my duties. When my military commitment ended, I moved from Annapolis to Baltimore, in order to attend Peabody Conservatory and continue my study with Leon Fleisher. Through a series of fortunate events, I quickly found work as a commercial pianist, in theaters, clubs, and television, where I assisted numerous well-known artists, from Ethel Merman and the Mills Brothers through Gladys Knight and the Pips and Don McLean.
While at Peabody, I encountered Jan LaRue’s seminal work in style analysis, which soon led to a close association with LaRue that would continue until his passing in 2004. His ideas impacted virtually all of my professional activity—performance, research (my dissertation was a study of Roger Sessions’s piano sonatas), and teaching, first at Mary Baldwin College, where I taught several general studies courses in music, and then at Western Illinois.
Soon after my arrival at WIU, I was asked to develop an introductory survey course in popular music. There was no published text for such a course at that time, so I created my own materials, which eventually became the first edition of Popular Music in America. Shortly after, I received a contract to write a rock music text, which became Rock and Roll: An Introduction, which was published in 1999.
A few years after I retired from WIU, I was asked to teach an online two-semester rock era survey at Arizona State University. Until 2018, I taught the courses via a proprietary online delivery platform using the print 2nd edition of my text.
However, in 2018, two major developments gave me an unprecedented opportunity to re-conceive my approach to the teaching of general music courses. One was the release of new editions of my pop and rock texts as digital products using Cengage’s MindTap platform. The other was the the adoption of the Canvas LMS by ASU. Both platforms represent significant advances in convenience, customization, and content integration. In tandem, they revolutionize the learning experience, especially in music: not only how and when the content is delivered, but what content is presented. Activities that would have been difficult—even impossible—just a few years ago are now at students’ fingertips. For me, this serendipitous synchronicity has opened the door to courses that help tell the story of the music more meaningfully.
Since I started teaching popular music courses, helping students hear history has always been my primary goal. The impact of these developments has transformed my texts and courses, in the service of students’ understanding of the music that they enjoy.