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Director, Institute for Popular Music, University of Rochester

John Covach is Professor and Chair of Music at the University of Rochester, Director of the University of Rochester Institute for Popular Music, Mercer Brugler Distinguished Teaching Professor, and Professor of Theory at the Eastman School of Music. Professor Covach teaches classes in traditional music theory as well as the history and analysis of popular music. His online courses at have enrolled more than 250,000 students in over 165 countries worldwide.

John Covach has published dozens of articles on topics dealing with popular music, twelve-tone music, and the philosophy and aesthetics of music. He is the author of the college textbook What's That Sound? An Introduction to Rock Music, recently published by W. W. Norton in a fourth edition, and has co-edited Understanding Rock (Oxford University Press), American Rock and the Classical Tradition, and Traditions, Institutions, and American Popular Music (both with Routledge), as well the recently published volume, Sounding Out Pop (Michigan). He is one of the founding editors for the University of Michigan Press series called Tracking Pop, which is devoted to scholarly monographs on popular music.

For more about his writing, see

As a guitarist, Covach has performed widely on electric and classical guitar in both the US and Europe and recorded with the progressive rock band, Land of Chocolate. He currently performs with several Rochester based bands, including Going for the One.

The following is a sample of some of Professor Covach's recordings; these links point to CDBaby, which features extended free samples: (mostly solo acoustic guitar), and (angular prog rock).


  • 2005–present
    Professor of theory, Eastman School of Music
  • 2005–present
    Professor, Music Department, University of Rochester
  • 2012–present
    Director, Univ of Rochester Institute for Popular Music
  • 1995–2005
    Associate professor, Music Department, UNC-Chapel Hill
  • 1991–1995
    Assistant professor, College of Music, University of North Texas


  • 1990 
    University of Michigan, Ph.D.
  • 1985 
    University of Michigan, M.Mus.
  • 1983 
    University of Michigan, B.Mus.