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MusicoutsidelinescoversmallWelcome to this website where I hope to inspire dialogue and sharing of ideas for composition and improvisation in K-12 music education. This website/blog will serve as an extension to my recently published book Music Outside the Lines: Ideas for Composing in K-12 Music Classrooms, which offers both practical and research-based ideas for teachers (anyone) to engage students in composition and improvisation. The blog categories are organized by the chapters and categories in the book.

I’ve been enjoying composition and improvisation work with children and adults of all ages and places for a very long time. And my conviction has only grown stronger over time that these creative music activities are among the most powerful that we can offer our students in music teaching spaces.

Please share composition and improvisation activities you’ve tried that are your own or come from the book. What works? What doesn’t? How can we learn from each other? Let’s talk about it!  I will post my continually evolving thoughts about music composition and improvisation in K-12 music. Share your own thoughts or read my posts in the “Thoughts” section of this blog.

My main belief is that we simply have to jump in and just DO IT! So let’s go…

7 thoughts on “Home

  1. Hi Maud,

    I’m enjoying your book and look forward to seeing this website develop!

    I devoted my third year teaching elementary school to composition, in part because I believed that I had to immerse the school in composition for an extended time to get a sense what we could do. The biggest surprise was that several students admitted that they wrote songs all the time but had never shared them. I was able to work with them and add some harmonies and record or perform them, and I never got over the feeling that for a few years I hadn’t taught in a way that encouraged them to share their songs with me. I learned to ask students if they have songs to share, and now know that they often do.

    During that year, I used Kenneth Koch’s books on teaching poetry to children and senior citizens for inspiration (Wishes, Lies, and Dreams; and I Never Told Anybody). He came up with some prompts for developing poems in classrooms, such as to create a class poem where each student completes the line “I wish…” The texts students generated led to songs, or we read the poetry over improvised accompaniments or sound settings. My students put on a concert, “Our Own Sounds,” and I included much of the rest of the poetry in an extended printed program. Koch wrote eloquently about how so much poetry for children was overly shallow, simplistic, and bound by boring rhyme schemes, and I think the same holds true for much of the music we use.

    Looking forward to reading more,

    Matt Thibeault

    • Matt – thanks for the tip on the book of poetry. One of the “units” I have in the curriculum at the Juvenile Center is about lyrics. I’ll definitely use this! Looking forward to more dialogue!

  2. Working with a class of 5th grade general music students, we gave everyone Orff instruments and learned how to play Pachelbel’s canon in C (for the Orff instruments). Once they had a good handle on the bassline (the famous bit), I had them work on writing their own different parts. Some of them made up harmony parts that went along with it, some of them made up eighth note rhythm parts that went with it, some of them came up with something totally different.

    What we did then was I played the bassline over and over and we added students one at a time until everyone was playing. The most successful class actually ended up sounding a bit like a mix between Pachelbel and the tonal works of Steve Reich! My students enjoyed it so much that we did the activity again (starting from the other side of the room) and recorded the result.

    • Is this the Jamin Morden I know? GREAT to hear from you and love this story! Next step: Play some Steve Reich for these students!!!

  3. Can’t wait to dive into this! Just kicked off beginning jazz with 6th graders and its time to start learning improvisation. Excited but nervous to teach this particular skill for the first time! I’ll be sure to share some experiences as we go through the process. Thank you for providing such a great resource!

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