Teachers use musical examples in class all the time. All the time. Sometimes, popular music works really well as listening examples. Teaching about major thirds, Aeolian Mode (esp. vs. Dorian Mode), Picardy Thirds, asymmetrical compound meter, direct (or otherwise!) modulation, and more? You can use pop examples listed here. Songs listed range in date from the 1950s to 2014, cover a wide swath of genres (although mostly dealing with Western pop hailing from the U.S., Canada, the UK, and Australia), and are broken up into three categories: classical & jazz samples, harmonic & melodic concepts, and rhythm & meter concepts. Enjoy!
From Evanescence sampling Mozart to Jurassic 5 sampling the Oscar Peterson Quartet (and Janet Jackson sampling both Erik Satie & Herbie Hancock), the songs featured here can help connect ensemble (and solo) performance literature to styles of music students may already be more familiar with.
Here we link to a bunch of songs that serve as good examples of some theory concepts, broken down into four major categories and several subcategories: intervals, modulations, modes, and cadences. Enjoy!
Do your students (band, chorus, orchestra, guitar, modern band, private piano, music theory, etc.) need help counting? There's so much popular music out there that can expose them to rhythmic concepts that are impossible to explain, listed here with three main features: cross-rhythms, changing meter, and compound and/or asymmetrical meter.