All the Music Curriculum at Sunset Ridge is project-based with a emphasis on creating and composing, First, let me say I do NOT teach theory, I teach creation of sounds through a story. Even my advanced students do not know the I, IV, V chord or a major scale, they will have plenty of time to learn the rules, I want them to make the music. They DO know what sounds they find interesting to them and what sounds good to them. The piano and upper elementary band student might have an idea about how music works with its rules, so they might have a western sounding composition.
Every fourth grade student is required to take a band instrument at Sunset Ridge School, so in the spring, every fourth grade composes a song and must play the song. They LOVE this project. Many times the student will change the song, because they don’t like the way it sounds on their instrument, while other students will look up fingerings in order to play the song. All students take their compositions home to practice. Technology has made this happen. I have a 13-station MIDI keyboard computer center in my music classroom, with Sibelius on all the computers.
It goes hand in hand with Sugata Mitra’s ‘Hole in the Wall” experiment in India, how children teach themselves. This was the basis of our discussion at the Golden Apple Seminar this week. We meet once a week as part of the GA sabbatical and it really got me going how I use this in my classroom, but I can do much more.
The general population student’s compositions are wonderful, youthful, and delightful. The students are not scared to create or compose. Too often, we as music teachers want to “tell the answers” using theory, with it’s rules and details, which slows the creation process down. So, the real question is how do we get the word out and let music educators let children create and compose without the rules?