Edwin E. Gordon

Published December 10, 2015

Edwin E. Gordon, an internationally recognized scholar of the psychology of music who researched and defined his world-famous music learning theory while serving as director of music education at UB, died Dec. 4 in Fort Dodge, Iowa. He was 88.

Featured often in the media, from NBC’s “Today Show” to The New York Times, Gordon authored nine highly regarded music aptitude and achievement tests. His extensive list of accomplishments include more than 50 books and numerous articles on the psychology of music, music rhythm, music learning theory, tonal and rhythm patterns, and music development in infants and very young children.

Gordon was a faculty member in the UB Department of Music from 1972-79. He researched and defined his widely accepted music learning theory — an explanation of how we learn when we learn music — while at the university, coining the term “audiation” to describe the cognitive process by which the brain comprehends music.

He taught at several universities, including Temple University, after leaving UB. But he never forgot that he developed his research in music learning theory at UB, returning frequently to the university as a distinguished visiting scholar in music education in the Department of Learning and Instruction, Graduate School of Education. He taught week-long workshops on music learning theory at UB as part of the GSE’s Summer Music Education Institute.

“Dr. Gordon’s passing is a significant loss for us personally and professionally, in particular for UB music education students who will no longer have the opportunity to study with this great scholar during our summer institute,” says Maria Runfola, professor of music education in the GSE and a former doctoral student of Gordon’s.
“The important work of Edwin E. Gordon provides us not only promising pedagogical and theoretical frameworks that have potential for positively impacting student music learning, but also should stimulate music education scholars to think more deeply about how we propose to improve learning outcomes in school music programs,” she says.

Runfola notes that all music education degree programs at UB are based on Gordon’s music learning theory.  Moreover, UB has the only online Advanced Certificate in Music Learning Theory.

A native of Stamford, Connecticut, Gordon’s early studies were in string bass performance at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, where he completed both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He then moved to New York City and performed with various groups, the most notable being the Gene Krupa Band. He then completed another master’s degree at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, and a PhD at the University of Iowa.