Associate Professor, Music Theory
B.M. (Ohio State), M.M. (SUNY Stony Brook), Ph.D (Stanford)
My primary research areas are music theory pedagogy, music cognition, the relationship between music and language, computer-assisted research, and how those things all relate to one another. My scholarship seeks to understand how music works and how humans process music; this allows me to help others learn about music, and to me that is the most exciting aspect of the work I do. My current pedagogy-oriented research focuses on how music theory pedagogy can learn from recent research into the cognition of teaching and learning, and how best practices in STEM pedagogy can be adapted to music theory pedagogy.
My lab group, the UBC VanLab, is an interdisciplinary group of undergraduates and graduate students interested in music cognition and music research. Current research projects include the Tempo Project, which is an investigation into how we perceive and process tempo, and what musical cues have an effect on our perception of tempo in music.
I edited and contributed to The Routledge Companion to Music Theory Pedagogy (2020), and I authored Oxford University Press’s Music Theory Skill Builder, an online music fundamentals drill and practice program. I also write a blog, Ask Dr. Van, where I answer questions from secondary students about music theory and music cognition.
In 2022 I served as host and Co-Director (with Gary Karpinski) of the Workshops in Music Theory Pedagogy, a week-long workshop focusing on current research and practices in music theory pedagogy. I am the Director of these Workshops and continue hosting them at UBC.
I have published in journals such as Music Perception, The Journal of New Music Research, Empirical Musicology Review, and The Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy. I have served on the editorial boards for Music Theory Spectrum, Music Perception, Empirical Musicology Review, and Journal for Music Theory Pedagogy, on the Executive Board for the Society for Music Theory and the Society for Music Perception and Cognition, and as the Chair of the Society for Music Theory’s Pedagogy Interest Group.