Amy Spears, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Music
Music Education
Office location

Rogers Fine Arts, Room 303

Office hours
aspears [at]

Amy Spears is in her tenth year at Nebraska Wesleyan University and is an Associate Professor of Music. She just returned from an international sabbatical for the 22-23 school year. She was in Cape Coast, Ghana during the fall 2022 semester studying Ghanaian drumming and teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in the Department of Music and Dance at the University of Cape Coast. During the spring 2023 semester she was in the UK working with master teachers at Musical Futures, which is an organization that focuses on informal music learning and popular music practices.


One of her more recent passions is taking students on study abroad trips. She has recently returned from leading a study abroad trip to Rwanda in June 2023. Along with her philosophy colleague Dr. Lisa Wilkinson, they took students from across the university to learn about life in post-genocide Rwanda. The Hutu ethnic group tried to eradicate the Tutsi ethnic group over 100 days in 1994; they succeeded in killing over a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Since 1994, the government as well as many non-government organizations (NGOs) have worked to implement policies and programs that have helped bring the Rwandan people together to live in a peaceful society. While there, students learned about how music was used as a tool in the genocide, and how it has also been used to heal the country since then. She plans to continue taking students to Rwanda every three years or so because she believes this study abroad is an incredible opportunity for students who take advantage of it.


At NWU, Dr. Spears's primary responsibilities include teaching undergraduate music education courses, supervising student teachers, and teaching courses for all majors such as rock band and world music drumming. She teaches courses in the Archway Curriculum on writing and diversity, as well as Global Diversity and Inclusion courses.


Dr. Spears completed her Ph.D. from Arizona State University in 2014. She holds a Master of Music in Flute Performance from the University of Alabama and a Bachelor of Music Education from Auburn University in Alabama. Prior to her appointment at NWU, Dr. Spears was a Visiting Instructor of Music Education at Florida Atlantic University where she taught graduate and undergraduate students in music education. She also taught undergraduate music courses and gave private instruction at the University of Alabama and Arizona State University. Dr. Spears has five years of teaching experience in public school music programs in Arizona and Alabama, including instruction with beginning, middle, and high school levels of concert bands, chamber ensembles, marching bands, jazz bands, middle school orchestra, middle school percussion ensemble, secondary general music, and guitar classes.

Her research agenda is focused on three specific areas of interest: informal music learning; the experiences of pre-service and in-service music teachers with visual impairment; and music and music education in Africa, specifically Rwanda. Dr. Spears has published research in the peer-reviewed Journal of Popular Music Education and Visions of Research in Music Education. She has had two book chapters published, one most recently in Marginalized Voices in Music Education. She is a regular presenter at national and international conferences throughout the United States including the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), the Society for Music Teacher Education (SMTE), Instrumental Music Teacher Educators’ Colloquium (IMTE), the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic, and state music conferences nationwide. Dr. Spears maintains an active professional involvement with  the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), its sub-organizations, and its state affiliates.

In her off-time, Dr. Spears plays flute and drum set in Release Time Band, which consists of Nebraska Wesleyan faculty members who perform at local coffee shops and on campus. She is also learning ukulele, and is continuing to get acquainted with other instruments and technology related to popular or informal music, as well as Ghanaian and Caribbean traditional music.


Courses taught

Archway Seminar: Rock Band: The music of social justice

Rock Band

World Music Drumming

Elementary General Music Methods 

Secondary Vocal Music Methods

Secondary Instrumental Music Methods

Practicum Supervision for Music Education Majors  

Student Teacher Supervision for Music Education Majors 



Research and academic interests

Selected Publications

Spears, A. & Dordzro, J.D. (2023 accepted for publication). Ghanaian Collegiate Music Students Who Play Brass Instruments’ Music Education Experiences at the Pre-Tertiary Level. International Journal of Music Education.


Hill, S.C., Giotta, D., Haning, M., Nannen B., Prendergast, J., Spears, A., Tracy, E., Wilson, J. (2023). Examining Ensemble Requirements for Music Education Majors. Journal of Research in Music Education, 1-14. DOI: 10.1177/00224294221144254


Spears, A., Larson, D., Minette, S. (2020). Informal Music Making Among Piano Bar Musicians: Implications for Bridging the Gap in Music Education. Journal of Popular Music Education, 4(3), 371-388.


Crispin, C., & Spears, A. (2019). Tips for Including Students with Visual Impairment in the Music Classroom. Nebraska Music Educator, March, 77(3), 26-28.


Edgar, S. N., Councill, K. H., Edwards, R. D., Hoffman, III, E. C., & Spears, A. (2018). How did I end up here?: The realities of teaching music education at small colleges and universities. Visions of Research in Music Education, 31. Retrieved from

Parker, E., Spears, A., & Draves, T. (2017). A Case Study of Two Music Education Majors with Visual Impairment. In B. Talbot (Ed.), Marginalized Voices in Music Education. Routledge.



Awards Received

2022 White Award for Internationalization

2019 Faculty Scholar Award

2018 Exemplary Teacher of the Year