Author Spotlight: Stan L. Breckenridge - California State University, Fullerton

December 12, 2017

BY: Kendall Hunt

Name: Stan L. Breckenridge

School: California State University, Fullerton

Academic Title at School: Senior Lecturer

Author of Music Taste or Waste: Critical Listening Skills for Students, Teachers, and Parents (2015); Other titles: Popular Music in America: Forging the American Spirit (2016) and African American Music: Including Theater, Film, and Dance (2014)


  1. Stan L. Breckenridge's Educational Background

I have a Ph.D. and M.A. in musicology from Claremont Graduate University, and a B.A. in music education from California State University, Fullerton. I not only consider my academic achievements as part of my educational background, but also my experiences as a professional musician as well. These combined accomplishments allow me to provide a more holistic view of music’s qualities and it's significance to education in general.


  1. What was lacking on the market that led you to create this product?

The catalyst for Music Taste or Waste: Critical Listening Skills for Students, Teachers, and Parents resulted from many discussions with students, teachers, and parents about their paucity of knowledge regarding today’s popular music scene as well as music in general. While there exists excellent books about classical, rock, jazz, popular and easy listening music, to name some, what was lacking is a basic book about understanding these and other styles using music terminology in a fun and easy-to-grasp approach. Furthermore, it became important to place and analyze very different styles and types of music in one book as a way to illustrate the effectiveness of music terminology, when learning about any style or type of music. In this book, terms such as melody, harmony, and rhythm, to name a few, are used to analyze styles such as reggaeton, film music, arias, symphonic metal, electronic dance music, country, dubstep, bachata, piano concertos, grunge, hip-hop, bebop/big band/Latin/New Orleans Jazz, and many others. Finally, I wanted to create a product that would appeal to people of all ages, social status, educational background, and music tastes. The spirit of this book does not seek to suggest any music is wasteful, but rather encourages readers to use music terminology as a way to draw conclusions about whatever music they hear.


  1. Describe your experience with Kendall Hunt publishing’s editors and support staff.

Kendall Hunt’s editors and support staff over the past 13 years have been a delight to work with. They are attentive to my goals and objectives of the project, while at the same offer concrete suggestions in order to create the best possible project.


  1. What are some of the special features and content that make it different from competing books?

Special features of this book include Song Navigators that guide the reader through a given song using chapter terms such as instrumentation, form, or dynamics, to name a few. Also included are many tables that list very different styles and types of music when discussing terms such as rhythm or tempo for example. Finally, this book offers music analysis from three different, yet in many ways related, age and social status groups. These are students, teachers, and parents.

Students will find this book useful because...

  • It offers an introduction to music’s principal elements without any music training.
  • It will strengthen his or her ability to apply learned skills to all genres and styles of music.
  • Individuals who delight in staying abreast of current styles and music trends will not be disappointed with this book’s practical approach to learning how to understand and/or appreciate any music.
  • Whether a student of classical, jazz, folk, country, or popular music, it focuses on music elements as analytical parameters for understanding music.

Teachers will find this book useful because...

  • Music is a didactic methodology as well as a pedagogical paradigm for developing discipline through the process of acquiring skills, application of these skills, and performance (i.e., articulation).
  • Whether for mathematics, science, language, reading and writing, the arts, social sciences, and so on, acquiring and using practical listening skills in music can help to strengthen, through its disciplined processes, one’s ability and confidence in achieving many goals.
  • It allows him or her to stay abreast with understanding current music styles and types.
  • It enhances his or her personal knowledge and skill where music is concerned.

Parents will find this book useful because...

  • It lends a hand at knowing, by analyses, the inner substance, musically and lyrically, in a child’s music choices.
  • With the continued diminishing of music education in public schools, young students grow up with undeveloped critical listening skills. To combat this, this book provides parents with needed tools to help nurture their children’s development of critical listening skills.
  • It provides a way to listen to their children’s music objectively.
  • It may open a line of communication with their children to explore music’s many appealing and fascinating aspects.


  1. Please describe what, if any, technology accompanies the text?

Because of copyright infringement laws a CD/DVD does not accompany this text. But this is good news, as the cost of including over 250 songs on discs would be extremely expensive to the consumer. Instead, the book contains playlists that the reader can stream or download to their preferred media.


  1. Describe some of your student’s and colleague’s comments and success in the classroom with the use of this publication.

After using this 97-page book some comments I’ve heard over the years include:

  • “I’ve listened to this song for many years, and never realized it had a structure until I read this book”s chapter on form.”
  • “My parents and I visited the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and they were impressed with my ability to talk about certain music characteristics of the 1950s better than them…and they were teens at the time. They knew I took a World Music course but wondered how I could articulate about rock & roll music. I told them the professor also required the book Music Taste or Waste…, which taught me how to critically listen to any style of music.
  • “I took a music appreciation course, which focused on classical music, and didn’t do well because I couldn’t grasp the meaning of terms such as texture and performance practices. While I enjoy classical music it’s not the music I listen to on a daily basis, and therefore found it more challenging to understand what was going on. This book applies terms such as syncopation and vocalities to music styles that I am familiar with, such as funk and grunge, as well as classical music that made it easy to grasp music terminology. I plan to retake the music appreciation course, and know I will do much better now.”
  • “I always thought jazz was hard to understand so I never had a desire to listen to recordings or attend a live performance. While taking your class at the university we were given the opportunity to attend a local jazz club with you, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Learning terms such as instrumentation and improvisation in your book and then seeing and hearing these in a live setting was my first enjoyable experience of jazz. I will be going again, as well as seeking other jazz venues.”
  • A former student who is now an elementary school teacher informed me she used the 3-line verse form and it's accompanying 12-bar blues progression, which are discussed in one of the book’s chapters, to teach her students about stanzas.


  1. What you’ve done to make switching to your book easy?

Here are some things I’ve done to make it convenient to instructors to switch to my book:

  • I provide clear step-by-step instructions to minimize preparations for its implementation in existing or new courses;
  • Too often students are given theory without substantial practical applications of the learned material. With this book the instructor provides a practical approach to learning critical listening skills from a professional musician as well as an academician;
  • The convenience of having discussions of many styles and types of music in one book is desirable by all music instructors. Moreover, with this book instructors are informed about current music styles;
  • Visual illustrations are provided for the instructor to easily navigate through songs for greater student comprehension;
  • Having taught over 28 years I know instructors receive a diverse group of students with regard to age, music taste, educational background, and social nurturing. This book was purposefully written with this in mind to make teaching about music terminology convenient for the instructor.


  1. Please share any funny, humorous, or interesting stories regarding your experience in the field, progress of writing the publication, or experience using it.

Each semester I often hear a student tell me, in person, their enjoyment of the book and hope to meet the author someday. I reply, “you just met him.” The look on their face when they realize it’s me... is priceless!