M.E. Haupert

Viterbo University (UNITED STATES)
Music composition is embedded into the Viterbo University music theory curriculum to promote active engagement of musical materials. The project accomplishes three basic complementary outcomes:
1) Students will be able to creatively apply and develop the foundations of music theory learned in their first year of university-level music study,
2) Students will develop proficiency using music writing software, and
3) Students will overcome their fear of composition and gain confidence as musicians.

Over the course of two semesters, music students are given all the ingredients necessary for the gestation and birth of a musical work that is original and personal. Meaning and purpose, combined with guidance and encouragement, sustain students over a five-month process of developing a concept, composing, editing, and finally performing their works.

In the past, students were inspired by a common broad topic (often chosen in connection with one of Viterbo University’s distinguished speakers) and gave students the opportunity to connect their music to another project on campus. Past “concepts” have linked nature, peace, and life mentors, to student experience. For example, in 2009, students were asked to write a piece of music that would be performed at the university’s Good Earth Humanities Symposium. Their compositions emulated woods, beaches, thunderstorms, sunrises, etc., and were performed as a set entitled, Earthtones, at the closing event of the symposium. The Earthtones project afforded a broad and interesting concept, along with a professional performance incentive.

The “concept” for the 2013-2014 VU sophomore class was a collaborative venture with Mr. Matthew J. Haupert’s Poetry & Poetics students at Community Charter Early College High School in Lake View Terrace, CA. Given that several of Mr. Haupert’s students come from families without high school and college degrees, his primary purpose as a Teach For America teacher has been to inspire students’ academic learning with creative-based projects that might pave their way to higher education. Pairing these potential young poets with university students offered them a glimpse at college life, but also added perspective and depth to the VU university theory course.

Even though only a quarter of the CCECHS poems were set to music, the project was successful. Distance didn’t prevent four poet-composer relationships from forming relationships, nor did limited communication impede composition. The effort seeded interesting solutions on how the project might be improved in the future and inspired young musicians to find their own musical voices. This presentation is the story of student success through creative collaboration.