What Happens in a Simpson College C&G Class? MUS 103

“Why is there a piano in our classroom?” You may have asked this question if you are a student in Classroom 9 at the WDM campus and taking something like Statistics or Accounting. However, if you are in MUS 103 Discovering Music with Jamie Poulsen, you will get the idea “con allegro.”

Students often sign up for the course with some apprehension, “Do I have to sing or play piano?” As their advisor, I reassure them, “No, but you have to listen.”

Instructor of Music, Jamie Poulsen, has taught Discovering Music for the Simpson College Continuing & Graduate Program for over 25 years. Outside of the classroom, Poulsen is an accomplished pianist and composer. He composes symphonic music; art songs, most easily described as poems set to music; soundtracks; and commercial tunes for area and national companies. Plus, Poulsen is active on the jazz scene in Iowa.

Listen Up

MUS 103 is a survey course, which means it provides a general understanding of music to students who haven’t studied this art form before. The class learns how to talk and write about music, but also how to listen beyond the lyrics. Poulsen is pleased when students begin to “hear the different textures and layers of instruments in a piece of music.”

Blue Notes

An early assignment for the class as a whole is to pencil in notes on a staff “old school” as Poulsen puts it. This term the class learns how to transcribe notes onto a page, and then eventually composes “MUS 103 Blues”, which Poulsen performs on the piano in the room.

PowerPoint Performance

A hallmark of the course is that students develop their imaginations and ability to express themselves. The creative project in this class is a PowerPoint presentation, using text, images, and music to showcase a single piece of classical music or the life of an important composer.


It’s just another night of class in Simpson College C&G.

(image credit: Jamie Poulsen)