What we have learned from the project so far.

It is hard to believe that we are nearly done with the first year of the Colorado Composes with Friends Project.  Just a few facts that are good to keep in mind as we enter our last compositional presentation.

We have 37 student participants.  Out of those 37 students, at least 29 have composed at least one piece.  Twenty-four of the participants have composed 2 or more pieces. 

Seven of our participants entered the Colorado NFMC Junior Composer Competition.  Four of those entrants won or placed at the state level of the competition. 

Students have composed in 6 different genre of music ranging from lead sheets to multi-instrumental pieces. 

What I have learned through the project has been invaluable.  As a teacher, I felt that workshops and conference talks left me with lots of missing parts when it came to the teaching of composition.  Composing is not nearly as hard as teaching others, with so many different learning styles, to begin the creative process for themselves.  The project allowed for eight different presenters to share their approachs.  This allowed me to glean those principles that could work for my students. 

It is also very apparent that the students learned something from the project.  Here are just a few things I have observed in my own students as they participated in the project. 

  • The chance to practice.  Composing is not a once a year, one time skill.  You really have to practice and as you practice it is just natural that you get better.
  • They have stretched and grown.  The Blues is different from creating a lead sheet where the melody must be really good in order for folks to sing along.  Creating a nature piece gave some students the chance to work with more than one instrument.  When you learn the capability of an instrument different from the piano, you suddenly realize that the piano is a really cool instument.  There were moments of heavy thinking and lots of editing.  That's how creation works.  You save some of your ideas and you discard others.
  • Friends were made.  As students listened to and viewed those chosen for the 5 Star Composer Bar, they wanted to comment on those pieces, find ways to emulate that style and bring a composition to the table that was of the same quality.  Composing with the project was not a solitary endeavor.
  • They received wonderful suggestions from their mentors.  These dedicated musicians wanted each child, in their charge, to succeed.  Their comments were clear, loving and full of workable suggestions.
  • Their piano performing skills improved.  This was quite the shock.  It was not an expected outcome of the project.  The students who actively wrote peices were more musical in their own playing of others pieces. 
  • They learned that creating allows freedom for their ideas, thoughts and musical soul.