Inch by Inch

A little aid for my students during the project

A little aid for my students during the project

Feeling overwhelmed yet?  To be honest, as the Colorado Composes Project began, I was racing to get my own studio up and running for the academic year having more than one panic attack. I wondered what we were doing even trying to add one more thing to our plates.   The thought crossed my mind daily,  "If I am feeling overwhelmed, then our teacher participants must be feeling the heat as well."  

So...after a few Zen moments (heavy breathing), some encouragement from friends and a moment or two to re-evaluate, I took the advice of a colleague in Florida.  Just progress INCH BY INCH.  My plan INCH BY INCH might not match your plan but if it works for you, do it!  

  1. First I made a plan of how I would implement the program in my own studio.  My plan will be as unique to my studio needs as will your plan.  
  2. I advertised to the students and parents in the studio.  They can't know what they will be missing if they don't know what they are missing. I needed to share the project to see if parents were on board. Everyone, with the exception of bare-bones beginners were included in the advertising process.   I was amazed at the response from parents.  
  3. I created, downloaded and researched materials that could supplement and reinforce principles taught during the project to meet the needs of each learning group; beginning composers, those with a little composing experience and those who could work on their own like Middle School and High Schoolers. Many of those materials were found on TeachersPayTeachers. (Resource listed below.)
  4. I decided to introduce or reinforce a new improvisational element for 5 minutes at each private lesson.  Time spent at 88CreativeKeys in Denver was invaluable in giving tools to introduce this aspect of creativity in the studio.  In group theory class, we will work on round robin  call and response type of extemporization.  Some ideas for this lesson idea are taken from an old book published by Trinity College in the UK. (See resource below.) This way, improvisation is part of the creative process.  
  5. I will use my Clavinova!  I have this wonderful device in my studio (as a matter of fact, I have two) where students can record an idea and see the idea realized in the score function of the Clavinova.  They quickly realize they will have to do a little work on their composition in the notation software as the Clavinova saves the idea just as you lay it down.  But at least the pitches and a general form are their for students to pick through. For those with Clavinova experience, this will be a great resource for you.  
  6. Allow students to work through the process INCH BY INCH. This project is not a competition but a project to build even the most novice composer's skills.   It was easy to get frustrated when a student seems to have  trouble with a concept as one of mine was having last week.   It was providential that I had read a wonderful article in the NAFME August 2015 edition of Teaching Music, by Debbie Galante Block on pg 56 talking about Accentuating the Positive when teaching composition to students.  "When teaching composition, a music educator needs to be flexible.  After a concept is taught, a student composer may not completely and immediately understand it.  This may take a while-perhaps a year or two.  "Give them some time and they will get it.  There is no immediate gratification in comping for the teacher or the student."  

The whole reason for the project is to teach the process.  In the 10 months of working in the creative realm it is our hope that at least a few of our students will get it and we will have planted a seed.  Until then make a plan and then progress,  INCH BY INCH. 



National Association for Music Education, Teaching Music, August 2015 Volume 23, Number 1

Aural Awareness & Extemporization, A Practial Gude Books 1,2 & 3 by David Wright, Trinity College London