March Composition Mentor

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    Hello to future music composition and theory teachers, in-service teachers and all music student composers! Get ready ‘cause spring is knocking on our door!

    My name is Frank Doyle and I am so glad to be NAfME’s composition mentor for the thaw month of March 2014. By way of introduction, I’ve studied jazz composition and music theory at New England Conservatory for my Masters Degree and am presently finishing my doctoral dissertation on the music of jazz pianist, Horace Silver. I teach a four-year music theory, composition, and musicology program at Northport High School on Long Island, which includes the AP, and the two-year IB (International Baccalaureate) programs. Part of my teaching day includes an elective course in Electronic Music Composition and Studio Recording for non-music majors. It is so amazing how much great music high school students can realize with little of no theoretical training!

    Professionally, I enjoy sharing my experiences and research in and out of the music theory classroom at conferences for NAfME, NYSSMA, SCMEA, and others. I often will include popular music into an AP Music Theory class to introduce concepts of voice-leading and harmony in a more practical and fun way. Here is a YouTube video of one of these lessons produced by the NYS Student Music Association a few years back: I would like to hear your ideas on other music theory lessons that can be planned through popular music. Feel free to post your ideas right here!

    There is another very supportive website for music theory educators that, as a co-editor, I encourage you all to explore and consider joining: (Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy Online.) On this website you will find many helpful resources, lesson plans, articles, forums, and demonstrations. Well worth a walk through!

    I’m grateful to have the opportunity to work with future teachers and their students in an exchange of ideas on how to make composition–and other opportunities of classroom creativity–a part of every student’s music education.

    Please send me a post and share YOUR teaching ideas and maybe even some classroom activities!



    Hello Mr. Doyle. I am interested in using the music of The Beatles in my classroom to demonstrate different aspects of Music Theory and AP Music. Do you think you could share a few examples that can be nurtured for lesson plans?




    Thank you for your interest in popular music in the music theory classroom. Can you tell me a little bit about your program?

    I do have a Powerpoint presentation on, “Harmonic Progression in the Music of the Beatles.” I would be happy to share this with you and others. In the presentation there are embedded audio and video clips as well as transcriptions of the music. It always interested me as just why this music is so special. I looked at every song in the released recorded catalogue and created a database on the chord movements. Now, these progressions would not be approved on an AP Music exam (!), but they do inspire creative thinking in the compositional process. Music theorist and author Walter Everett was an inspiration for this study. I will be happy to send the DVD with this file to you and all that respond to this blog.

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