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Associate Dean

Associate Professor of Music Education

Rachel Whitcomb - Teacher Scholar.jpg

Dr. Rachel Whitcomb

Dr. Rachel Whitcomb

Associate Dean

Associate Professor of Music Education

Duquesne University

Mary Pappert School of Music



Ed.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
M.M., Northwestern University
B.S., West Chester University

Rachel Whitcomb is Associate Dean and Associate Professor of Music Education at Duquesne University where she currently teaches Primary General Music Methods and Elementary General Music Methods. In recent years, she has also taught Music Education Seminar, Senior Seminar, Popular Music Pedagogy, and Inclusive Teaching Strategies for the Music Classroom. Her teaching focuses on early childhood and elementary general music methods, creativity, popular music pedagogies, professional preparation for first-year music teachers, and music for students with special needs.


As an active songwriter and vocalist, Dr. Whitcomb strongly believes that music of all types should be included in schools so that children can have an outlet for expression that is relevant to their lives outside of school. Through her work as a teacher, educator, and songwriter, she hopes to inspire others to unapologetically embrace the music they love and not be afraid to study it in and out of school. As a recipient of the Modern Band Higher Education Fellowship from Music Will (formerly Little Kids Rock), Dr. Whitcomb has implemented informal music learning processes and popular music pedagogies into undergraduate methods courses to allow future music teachers to learn strategies for incorporating new approaches into their public school music classrooms.


As an administrator, Dr. Whitcomb currently serves as the Associate Dean of the Mary Pappert School of Music (MPSOM). Dr. Whitcomb previously served as Chair of the Department of Music Education and Music Therapy, as well as the Program Director of Music Education. As Associate Dean (i.e., Chief Academic Officer), she works with all Department Chairs and Program Directors to ensure the academic success of students in all music degree programs. She has led efforts to bring the entire school community together regularly for a variety of events such as convocations, faculty performances, health and wellness lectures, DEIA events, staff presentations, guest artist performances, master classes, and award ceremonies. Dr. Whitcomb oversees all policies and procedures within the MPSOM and, along with the leadership team, has steered efforts to implement strategic priorities within the MPSOM 2021-2024 Strategic Plan, including sustainability, academic programs, and diversity and inclusion.


Dr. Whitcomb is the creator of Musical Families, a group music class for very young children (birth through age 4) and their parents. Musical Families has been part of the City Music Center within the Mary Pappert School of Music. Dr. Whitcomb can often be found teaching preschool music classes on and off campus at various child care centers in the Pittsburgh region. 


Dr. Whitcomb's professional interests have included improvisation in elementary general music, rubrics as evaluative tools in music instruction, and the role of music in the lives of preschoolers. She has conducted studies focusing on the nature and extent to which improvisation is occurring in elementary general music classrooms. Her work has been published in Journal of Research in Music Education, Music Educators Journal, Research and Issues in Music Education, Teaching Music, The Orff Echo, The Kodály Envoy, and General Music Today. She is a frequent presenter at international, national, regional, state, and local professional development conferences for music educators and early childhood teachers.


  • Recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching at Duquesne University



  • Recipient of the Modern Band Higher Education Fellowship from Little Kids Rock for travel, professional development, curricular materials, and modern band instruments used to advance informal music learning processes and popular music pedagogies within undergraduate music education methods courses.

  • Faculty Development Grant ($2500) from Duquesne University Office of International Programs for the creation of a study abroad course, Music Learning in Ireland: Analysis and Application of Traditional Irish Music and Methodologies for Classrooms and Performances



  • Recipient of the West Chester University Distinguished Alumni Award


2012 - 2013

  • Grant ($10,000) from The Helen Ruth Gordon Charitable Trust of PNC Charitable Trusts for The Early Childhood Music Initiative

  • Grant ($35,000) from The Pittsburgh Foundation for The Early Childhood Music Initiative


2011 - 2012

  • Duquesne University Learning Assessment Mini-Grant for the Music Education Gateway Assessment Project

2010 - 2011

  • Grant ($100,000) from The PNC Foundation for The Early Childhood Music Initiative


  • Recipient of the Marilyn Pflederer Zimmerman Fellowship in Doctoral Studies in Music Education (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

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