Composing in school ensembles! May is a great time!

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    Hi everyone! My name is Xander Koops and I am the composition mentor for the month of May for this Forum. I direct the undergraduate music education program at Azusa Pacific University and one of my passions has been helping local middle school and high school teachers include composition with their music ensembles. The end of the school year often has days when we as music teachers are finished with performances and have dead time. Rather then watch a random video, why not do some really fun creative composing lessons!! I have a lot of examples–email me if you want more specifics: –I’d love to share some of my lesson plans with you.
    Also, consider trying some composition lessons from published resources:
    1. Musicianship: composing in band and orchestra. Published by GIA
    2. Music Outside the Lines by Maude Hickey (Oxford University Press)
    Do you have a favorite piece of music you have done with your band, choir, orchestra, or other setting that has supported you in bridging to a composition activity? If so please share!! In further posts, I hope to share some of my favorite examples! All the best!!


    Hi Xander-
    Thanks for leading this part of the forum!

    For the last three years I have my middle school concert band compose original pieces and we perform them all at one of our spring concerts.

    You can see the curriculum that I’ve created for this project here:

    This year students chose to compose a piece in a certain style. Also, all of my students have composed music for professional ensembles prior to this project.
    One tip I have for teachers who may be new to this is to begin by having their band kids compose simple warm up chorales. I give them all the assignment where they must compose 3 part chorales using only whole notes and half notes. They must only use consonant intervals. We use them throughout the year in place of our normal warmups and the kids love it!
    Noteflight make the transpositions very easy. I’ll have them put one voice in Bb and one in Eb and the 3rd leave in concert pitch and that covers a part for everyone.


    Matt, this is fantastic–I love it!! I hope many teachers reading this forum will be able to use this, and I certainly will be adding this to my teaching at Azusa Pacific University with my music education students!


    Thanks Xander!

    And as I mentioned in another post this is our learning community that I run: Music Composition as Experience It is geared towards teachers who are interested in using technology to help their students compose in a typical classroom setting.

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