Sean Atkinson

Director of the School of Music
Associate Professor of Music Theory
Ed Landreth Hall 120A | 817-257-5417


Ph.D, Music Theory - Florida State University
MM, Music Theory - Florida State University
BM, Trombone Performance and Music Theory - Furman University

Courses Taught

Elementary Theory
Advanced Theory
Elementary Ear Training
Advanced Ear Training
Music and Meaning (Graduate Music Theory Seminar)
The Music of Billy Joel (Graduate Music Theory Seminar)
Music Analysis: 1880-1950
Society Through Multimedia (Honors College Colloquium Course)
Form and Analysis

Areas of Focus

Multimedia Analysis, including opera, video, film, video games, etc.; Post-tonal Analysis, with a focus on minimalist music; Music Theory Pedagogy, with a focus on Flipped-Classroom teaching

Sean Atkinson is the Director of the School of Music and an Associate Professor of Music Theory at TCU, teaching a wide range of music courses including first- and second-year music theory and aural skills, form and analysis, and graduate seminars on music analysis, musical meaning, and popular music. He has earned both MM and PhD degrees in music theory from Florida State University and holds a BM degree in music theory and trombone performance from Furman University.

Atkinson is the author of a course for The Great Courses called Music Theory: The Foundation of Great Music. The course teaches viewers the basics of Western music theory, from note and rhythm reading, all the way through harmony, harmonic progressions, and reading lead sheets. Additionally, his research, which broadly address issues of musical meaning in multimedia contexts, has been published in numerous journals, including Music Theory OnlineIndiana Theory ReviewThe Dutch Journal of Music Theory, Music Theory and Analysis, and Popular Music. He is also active in the growing field of video game music (ludomusicology), with presentations at the North American Conference on Video Game Music and Music and the Moving Image, and several forthcoming essays in edited collections on video game music. In 2018, Atkinson joined with a group of faculty from across campus to create No Quarters, an on-campus video game lab committed to the interdisciplinary research and teaching of video games. Housed in the TCU library, the lab allows students and teachers to explore a growing number of games and consoles, including virtual reality.

Atkinson is also an active member of the faculty at TCU, having recently served as chair of the Faculty Senate where he has been a member since 2016.

“Billy Joel and the Cinematic American West.” Texas Society for Music Theory, February 2020.

“Tonality in Steve Reich’s Nagoya Marimbas.” Music Theory and Analysis, Volume 6, Number 2, Fall 2019.

“Soaring Through the Sky: Topics and Tropes in Video Game Music.” Music Theory Online, 25.2.

“The Musical Narrative of JRPGs: ‘Melodies of Life’ in Final Fantasy IX.” First Person Scholar, January 2019.

“Deceptive Love and Denied Endings: Tropes in the Music of Billy Joel.” Popular Music, Volume 37, Number 3, 2018.

“Tropes and Narrative Foreshadowing in Final Fantasy IV.” Music and the Moving Image XIII, May 2018, New York City, New York.

“Flipped Classroom Strategies for Music Theory Instruction.” Special Pedagogy Presentation at the Texas Society for Music Theory, February 2016.

Full CV

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Society for Music Theory

Texas Society for Music Theory

Semiotic Society of America

Pi Kappa Lambda