- Why should I use valuable choral/band/orchestra rehearsal time on composition? I have to get ready for All State, Festival, Competition,...
- How can I compose with so many students? We just don't have materials, manuscript, etc. And why the effort?
- My students don't have the necessary Music Theory skills, so how can they compose meaningful music?
Incorporating Compositional Activities in the Orchestra Rehearsal. Why should we have our students compose?
Composition activities can help students better understand how music is put together and therefore approach playing in a more musical way - identifying motives, phrases, themes, development, sequence, etc.
Through music composition, students have the opportunity to engage their musical imagination, creativity, and problem-solving skills.
The act of composing and the performance of student compositions can be highly motivational. Students develop a sense of pride and ownership in the activity unlike that experienced when performing sheet music.
Students who compose develop musical independence. The process of accurately notating a musical idea helps foster a greater understanding of the music notation system. In the area of language learning, research has demonstrated that writing enhances reading skill. The same is likely true in music, although we still need a body of research to verify.
Composing music can help students develop a greater understanding and appreciation of the art form.
Our profession has recognized the importance of incorporating compostional activities into the curriculum with the publication of the National Standards in 1994. Standard no. 4 reads "Compose and arrange music within specified guidelines."
Click here to read some great supporting statements from the the music education literature on the importance of incorporating compositional activities in the curriculum.
It is easy to talk about "WHY" we should have students compose. The benefits seem very obvious. It is more challenging, however, to figure out "HOW" to incorporate composition activities into the traditional orchestra rehearsal environment.
What should we have our students compose? Beginning Composition Activities in the Orchestra rehearsalIf you plan on incorporating composition into your orchestral curriculum, it is important to establish a philosophical base from which to begin. There are obviously many approaches to music composition, but in my opinion some are more effective than others for beginning students of composition. Here are some ideas that I subscribe to; you may not agree with all my ideas, but if my ideas stimulate debate, I believe they are even more effective.Craft Oriented ApproachThe majority view of creativity among scholars is that it is a process which involves both "inspiration" and "perspiration". For music educators, this statement indicates that while we may be able to teach our students how to work with a musical idea (perspiration), we cannot teach them how to become "inspired" with a musical idea. Fortunately, a large body of research exists which indicates our students have plenty of generative musical ideas. We can teach our students the rational aspects of musical creativity but not the irrational. We must therefore concentrate our efforts on teaching the craft of composition in the classroom. Compositional activities which attempt to develop "creativity" without addressing the rational aspects of composing may not be successful for developing compositional skill. As Bridges (1996) states, "it is impossible to be creative without some control of materials, otherwise we have nothing except mindless doodling," and as Hunter (1994) writes, "Creativity without craft means nothing" (Rosevear, 1996, p. 17). Regelski (1986) writes, "While...composition can also be used to ‘teach creativity,’ this end is best approached as a natural by-product of composition rather than the focus of such instruction, if only because no one has much of an idea what creativity is. At best, starting out to teach an unknown leads to all kinds of hit-or-miss results; at worst, it makes a mockery of the craft of composition." (Regelski, 1986, p. 42).Fortunately, in my own experience working with students, I have NEVER met a student who did not have a musical idea. And if you think about the great composers and the great compositions, very little of composing is about the musical idea itself. It is about DEVELOPMENT of the idea. Think of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony with that tiny little rhythmic motive, or Brahms Second Symphony with the D-C#-D motive. Were Beethoven and Brahms creative? Of course they were. But they also spent many years learning the craft of composing - and without the craft they would never have become great composers.