Diversity, inclusion, belonging, and social justice are important goals of the Society for Music Theory. These goals cannot simply be proclaimed; we must all work toward them. There is no better starting point than in our undergraduate classrooms. It is for this reason that the SMT introduces the Award for Diversity Course Design.

This annual award will honor an outstanding undergraduate syllabus that promotes diversity in music theory. An entry should be original work, with ideas or approaches drawn from others indicated generally in footnotes to maintain anonymity (these references can be made more specific at a later stage for winning entries). The award underscores our commitment to these goals in practical ways: the winning entry (as well as any honorable mentions chosen by the committee) will be posted on the SMT website to serve as a model. Over the years, a range of best practices will emerge that can change what we teach and how we teach it.


We deliberately leave the term “diversity” unspecified. Although we consider issues of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and disability to be particularly relevant, especially intersections of these, this is not an exclusive list. A successful syllabus may focus on one or a small number of issues pertaining to diversity, inclusion, belonging, and social justice.

Diversity in teaching can manifest itself at various levels. Such aspects as alternative teaching formats, accessibility, citation justice, evaluation criteria (e.g., “ungrading”), information presentation (e.g., Universal Design) can also be important components of successful diversity course design. We encourage the use of readily available teaching resources (e.g., Music Theory Examples by Women, Composers of Color Resource Project).

The committee will take the adaptability (and adoptability) of the course design into consideration, to ensure that it can fulfill its function as a model and spark ideas for similar courses offered at other institutions by other teachers. 

Any current member of the SMT is eligible. The syllabus does not have to be a course that has been taught or is about to be taught. We explicitly invite graduate students, the un(der)employed, and those who are unable to be active teachers in higher education to contribute syllabi of courses that they wish would be taught. In those cases we ask that syllabi comply with standard dimensions of semester/quarter-length courses suitable for undergraduate students.


The award is determined by the Award for Diversity Course Design Committee.

The winner will be announced at the annual meeting in November. 

Application process

A completed application consists of the following, submitted through the online submission portal (log-in required):

  • A pdf file of a semester/quarter-long syllabus (10–15 weeks), no more than 15pp. long. Please anonymize your syllabus (remove name, institution, building names, etc.).
  • An anonymized cover letter, no more than 2pp. long, outlining rationale and teaching goals, explaining especially how the syllabus addresses questions of diversity in its pedagogy and how the proposed course might fit into a music theory curriculum. The committee invites the author(s) to include background positionality, if relevant to the subject in question.
  • An anonymized appendix of specific teaching resources may be added only if these materials are
    1. unavailable elsewhere, and
    2. indispensable to the diversity tasks of the syllabus, and
    3. not under copyright, i.e., available to other SMT members for use in their teaching.


The 2023 application deadline has passed.

Questions may be addressed to the DCD committee chair.