Igniting Creativity: Composition for General Music Classes, and for Special Learners

Igniting Creativity

Composition for General Music Classes, and for Special Learners

By NAfME Members Rhoda Bernard and Sheena Dhamsania

Igniting a student’s creativity in the music classroom is not only beneficial in an age where out-of-the-box thinking is valued—it’s essential!


Join in to see how elementary-level composition projects for the general music classroom with an emphasis on students with special needs can spark interest in the music classroom, provide an enjoyable listening experience for “the fans” (i.e., administrators and families), and incorporate the 2014 Music Standards. Be ready to see student examples and create projects to try, take away, and teach.

Session description: In the 2014 Music Standards, creating has been elevated to one of three artistic processes, making the creative activity of composing more relevant than ever! Many in the profession, however, are unsure of how best to implement the creating process components of imagine, plan and make, evaluate and refine, and present. Examples of student work will be presented, along with music-composition teaching strategies and lesson ideas. Participants in this hands-on session will interact with these process components. The focus will be on how to implement the creating process with general music classes and for special learners through composition.

About the authors:

In working with both children and adults alike, Sheena Dhamsania has discovered the beauty in bringing an individual’s creativity to life. Upon graduation from the Michigan State University College of Music (earning a BA in Music Education and Bassoon Performance), she headed West, and has been teaching elementary music in Wyoming for the past 7 years. Integrating composition and songwriting as an essential skill in the classroom, Ms. Dhamsania has been published in the 2013 GIA publication Musicianship: Composing and Band and Orchestra. In addition to teaching in Jackson, Kelly, and Moran, WY, Ms. Dhamsania sings and plays bass in the band Risky Livers, whose music has been featured in the new Quicksilver snowboarding movie, Depth Perception, this fall. They have recently concluded a tour playing in major cities across the west, sponsored by Skullcandy.

NAfME member Rhoda Bernard, Managing Director of the Berklee Institute for Arts Education and Special Needs, holds a Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, in government from Harvard University and a Bachelor of Music with academic honors in jazz voice from New England Conservatory. She earned both her Master of Education and Doctor of Education degrees from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Bernard regularly presents research at conferences throughout the United States and abroad, and she provides professional development workshops for educators in local, national, and international forums. Her work has been published in several book chapters and in numerous journals, including Music Educators JournalMusic Education ResearchAction, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education; Mountain Lake Reader; and Arts and Learning Research Journal. Bernard has been honored with the Berklee Urban Service Award (2017), the Boston Conservatory Community Service Award (2011), the Boston Conservatory Faculty/Staff Spirit Award (2007), and the Outstanding Dissertation Award, Honorable Mention (Second Place) from the Arts and Learning Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association. A vocalist and pianist who specializes in jazz music and Jewish Music in Yiddish and Hebrew, she performs regularly with a number of klezmer bands and has recorded two CDs with the band Klezamir.

Rhoda Bernard and Sheena Dhamsania presented on their topic Composition for General Music Classes, and for Special Learners” at the 2017 NAfME National Conference last November in Dallas, TX. Register today for the 2018 NAfME National Conference!

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