Sean is currently Assistant Professor of Music Theory at the TCU School of Music where he teaches a wide range of courses, including Freshman and Sophomore music theory and aural skills, Form and Analysis, graduate seminars on music analysis and musical meaning, and a media studies class for the TCU Honors College. Prior to joining the faculty at TCU, Sean served on the music faculty at the University of Texas-Arlington. He has earned both the MM and PhD degrees in music theory from Florida State University and holds a BM in music theory and trombone performance from Furman University. While attending Florida State, Sean was nominated for the university-wide Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award.

Sean’s research, which broadly address issues of musical meaning in multimedia contexts, has been published in numerous journals, including Music Theory Online, Indiana Theory Review, The Dutch Journal of Music Theory, and Popular Music. Sean 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. His article on Topics and Tropes in Video Game Music is published in Music Theory Online (25.2) and a chapter on the music in the game Final Fantasy IX is forthcoming in a collection that explores the work of video game composer Nobuo Uematsu (edited by Richard Anatone). Sean is also working on a monograph that explores the various ways music and media interact to create meaning.

In 2018, Sean 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.

At TCU, Sean is an active member of the faculty, currently serving as chair-elect of the Faculty Senate where he has been a member since 2016. As chair of the Senate’s Academic Excellence Committee, Sean helped bring a motion to the entire faculty that will add a Diversity. Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) requirement to TCU’s Core Curriculum.


PhD and MM degrees in Music Theory, Florida State University

BM in Music Theory and Trombone Performance, Furman University

Other Publications

Recent Publications

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

Soaring Through the Sky: Topics and Tropes in Video Game Music.” Music Theory Online, 25.2, August, 2019.

Creating Dynamic Media Examples: a Brief Tutorial.” Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy, Volume 33, 2019.

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, Vol. 37, No. 3, October 2018.

Blog Posts

    Upcoming Talks and Conferences

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

    Sean Atkinson

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