M. Haupert

Viterbo University (UNITED STATES)
Teaching and learning the art of music composition requires a tremendous investment of time, patience, and collaboration between teacher and student, but offers impressive improvement in a student’s ability to comprehend, utilize, and perform music at more sophisticated and informed level. “Creativity, Meaning, and Purpose: Essential Ingredients for Taking the Fear out of Music Composition” explores the benefits of music composition in a university-level music program through a course-embedded project. Three complementary student learning outcomes will be explored: 1) Students will be able to creatively apply and develop the foundations of music theory learned in their freshman year, 2) Students will develop proficiency using music writing software, and 3) Students will overcome their fear of composition and gain confidence as musicians. This oral presentation will explore effective pedagogical tools for each stage in the project and incorporate student testimonials, examples of completed projects, and recordings of live performances.

Each student composition is inspired by a common broad topic (often chosen in connection with one of Viterbo University’s distinguished speakers), is created and/or finished for performance use with Finale® or Sibelius® music writing software, and then performed for local and regional audiences. Freshmen music majors anticipate music composition and work with music writing software as a staple in their theory courses, while Viterbo University graduates look back at their composition projects as one of the more rewarding experiences in their undergraduate training.

Research and experience in the realm of creative composition point to the importance that personal connection (“meaning and purpose”) has on the enthusiasm of the artist and the ultimate product of the creative endeavor. Keeping these findings in mind, the topics chosen for each of the projects are general enough that students can make a personal connection, while still experiencing the “communalizing” effect of the class project.

The combination of performance incentive and peer mentoring is the final, crucial ingredient in the success of the project. When compositions reach the finishing stage, fellow class members become the resources necessary to rehearse and perform one another’s pieces. The main benefits of this are that peer performers offer one another gracious appraisal of a given composition and constructive suggestions for improvement without intimidation—mentoring one another through rehearsals and performances by offering constructive criticism (i.e. how a phrase or idea might be easier to sing and/or play), while providing the benefit of support and guidance through collective engagement.

“Creativity, Meaning, and Purpose: Essential Ingredients for Taking the Fear out of Music Composition” develops the poster presentation from the EDULearn 2009 conference (“Peace by Piece: Taking the Fear out of Music Composition”), adding three years of classroom experience, research in the field of creativity, and pedagogical innovation to this richly rewarding project.