Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Finding the Music 'Within': An Instructional Model for Composing with Children

Article Review: “Finding the Music ‘Within’: An Instructional Model for Composing with Children”
Reference: Morin, Francine (2002). Finding the Music ‘Within’: An Instructional Model for Composing with Children. Creativity and Music Education, Willingham & Sullivan (Editors) CMEA Books 152-178.
Concerned with most music teachers’ lack of knowledge and experience in teaching creative composition at public school classrooms, the author endeavours to bridge the gap by providing a theoretical framework of the creative process, a general guideline for preparing lesson plans, and a sample lesson plan outlining the content, skill, structure, performance, and evaluation of such pedagogic project.
Since parallels between music and language learning have been observed by educators and pedagogues alike, this instructional model for creative composition is based on the innate ability of music to communicate. While students receive information about the structural components – rhythm, harmony, and structure – of music in their education, it only makes sense if they use these components for constructing and communicating personal expressions. When we learn a language, we not only learn to read, remember, and understand, but we also use the language to speak and express our feelings.
As the author points out the importance of establishing a safe classroom environment for experimenting, risk-taking, and making mistakes in creative composition, refraining from imposing teacher’s aesthetic value on the students is a demanding, but significant task. Is it possible to imagine a babbling toddler receiving “language lessons” with strict supervision over the content and pronunciation? How long will its enthusiasm for sound experiments last? When the need to conform to someone else’s value overrides the pleasure of playing and exploring, the goal and essence of creativity is lost.
I remember how I felt when I started learning a second language as a teenager in a foreign country. The fear of making mistakes was overwhelming. When I had the impression of not making myself understandable, I felt mortified and became reluctant to speak. Is it not similar to the inhibition a classically trained musician feels when asked to improvise? The high ideals of performance, combined with lack of exposure, often bring forth silent panic.
As I am learning to improvise and compose with my students, this aspect of music creativity reminds me of what we want to do with music education. Are teachers the guarantors of musical productivity – regular daily practice, performances, and a checklist of books each student has to finish by the end of every year – or human beings who are able to listen, observe, and guide the students’ development in their musical vocabulary? The desire to speak increases with the knowledge that someone will listen. Shall we give ourselves and our students the chance to be their creative selves? We can start with listening.

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