Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lesson guidelines for Elementary Composition Project

Writing a song as part of an all-school collaboration. 

Grades 1-3, (done over the coarse of 4-6 one hour classes.)

1. Brainstorm - Discover what the students want to write a song about, talk about 'creative destruction' and the fact that some good ideas will not be used in the pursuit of the one we all believe in. Teachers role - write ideas down as fast as possible, group them, clarify them, connect them. Whittle it down to one main idea, theme, or story.  
2. Talk about style, mood, dynamics and whatever else you deem important about a composition. Help them to decide as much as possible about how these concepts will apply to their song.  
3. Create a melody through singing. Teachers role - Bring them face to face with all the decisions made thus far and ask them to sing how they think it will go. Listen very intently and catch ideas, play them back on whatever instrument you can relay emotion best with. I like using the guitar.  
4. Discuss the story or message that the students are trying to relate and help them to link the ideas, melodies, and overall structure of the piece. It is important to help them make decisions and commit them.  
5. As you compose the song, record it and play it back. They are their own best critics.  
6. Record the song on a multi track protools sytem with nice mics. Have older students play different instruments on the pieces and then bring in the young ones to overdub the voices. Each class does one song which is on an all school C.D. They perform their song at the spring concert.

I will be posting 6 years worth of these C.D.'s online very soon. Please follow me on Twitter to get the links. Also, please leave comments below.



Elementary Composition?

I was recently asked to complete a survey on my ideas about composition in the elementary classroom. The survey boiled down to one simple question:  

Why do you think composition is important at the elementary level? 
Once a composition is created, the composer is left to decide if it depicts an accurate representation of their OWN idea of music. That thought process is a vital component in the development of a creative, confident, and well rounded musician. When students are left only to 'perform' the ideas (compositions) of others, they become highly skilled at 're-creation' of musical ideas and they are rarely inspired to develop their own personal idea of what music is all about. Do you learn painting only by reproducing the work of great artists? Do you learn to dance only by following the moves of a great dancer? When you speak, are you only saying phrases and sentences that you have learned from great orators? As my two year old son would say...."No, MINE do it!" Sure, it is not "proper", but it is his way of communicating, and it is very effective! (And for all we know, he is channeling Shakespeare)

In the coming weeks, I will be posting 6 years of student compositions on the web. Follow me on twitter to get the links.