Performing Student Large-Ensemble Works: Opportunity or Albatross?

Frontpage Forums Music Composition Performing Student Large-Ensemble Works: Opportunity or Albatross?

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    Hello Colleagues,

    My name is Judd Danby, and I’m serving as NAfME’s composition mentor this month.

    I am a concert music composer, a jazz performer and composer/arranger, and a teacher at Jefferson High School in Lafayette, IN, where I work with students in the areas of music theory, composition, and jazz improvisation. I also serve as Chair of the Indiana Music Education Association’s annual Composition Competition, as a member of the NCCAS writing subcommittee currently drafting the new national standards for composition-theory education (HS), and as Artistic Director of The Jazz Club, a member-supported jazz concert series in the Lafayette, IN, area.

    One of the struggles I have experienced during my years as high-school teacher of composition is the difficulty of getting student compositions for large ensembles performed at school. It seems that directors are under such pressure to perform school-music-association-recognized (or equivalent) repertory, often under high-stakes competitive conditions, that devoting time to working on student pieces is difficult at best.

    While I understand and empathize with the urge to perform “proven,” high-quality work (I direct a jazz ensemble, after all), I also wonder if we’re ignoring an opportunity to more fully serve our music students by allowing them the opportunity to workshop, polish, and present student works.

    I also think it would be a marvelous thing indeed if competition judges recognized and celebrated the performance of student compositions.

    I’d like to hear others’ experiences and thoughts on this matter.

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