Saturday, August 29, 2009

Teaching composers

Where has the time gone? As you might imagine, I don't get much spare time anytime these days, so I'm not a reliable blogger, sorry. What with work, family, running the house, other things, life runs away from me quite regularly.

This year I've had the opportunity to re-structure the composition curriculum where I teach. I am fairly happy with the results, particularly with setting composition projects (with prescribed parameters) for individual students at each level. However, each week we meet as a seminar class twice a week for 1 hour each meeting. A combined-level class is always a challenge: what can be taught to 1st years without being boring and repetitive to the 3rd years? What can be taught to the 3rd years without being over the heads of the 1st years? It isn't quite like a performance masterclass where everyone can learn from observing the student who is playing.

My most recent thoughts about dealing with the seminar is to run it as a three-year cycle on topics/composers/eras, so that in three years of a degree, a composition major would cover (in general terms) each topic regardless of what year they are in.

I'd be very interested in any advice on this, from a musical or pedagogical point of view. Or any alternative suggestions!

Thanks in advance...

10 comments:

Penni said...

I wonder if it would be appropriate to have third (and perhaps second) years generating the content for the first years? There is a pretty big gap in my experience between 1st and 3d year level in terms of sophistication in their understanding of the relationship between theory and practice (that's in terms of creative writing and literary theory of course). They are much more sophisticated readers by 3rd year level. And if third years are basically responsible for making the content it can (potentially) be a bit more relaxing for teachers. The (3rd year) subject I am teaching this semester is entirely student led, and it has ended up being far more sophisticated, engaged and engaging than the other subjects I've taught.

Maria said...

The problem is that, at this point, the 3rd years have the same lack of knowledge as the 1st years. The entire music course (regardless of major) isn't working properly so kids are coming out of a degree with huuuuuge gaps in their general knowledge.

I only have 6 across all year groups this year, so I'm really just running each class as I see fit, depending on what's happening and what people are expressing interest. We're putting a new bachelor's degree up starting next year so I want it to be a lot more organised - it's easier on me to have the content more prepared in advance too.

Maria said...

Hmn, though - maybe having 3rd years generating a class (or two) is a good idea, definitely.

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