As you would expect, I absolutely love composing with children! The final result is always fantastic, but it is the process that is so fascinating to me. The composition to the right was done by first graders. They chose partners and created a 4/4 measure. We then took their 1 measure composition and decided on the order. Throughout the process children were encouraged to listen, ask questions and then decide on the final order. When I do this with kids, I always ask “What measure should we end with?”. Once that measure is chosen, I ask “What measure should we start with?”. The ending and the beginning always seem to be the easiest and will set the tone for the entire piece. Then when we tackle the middle, it is easier to see what will work. While we figured out the middle, questions and observations came up that indicated how thoughtfully kids were thinking about the final piece. True, some kids want to switch measures around just to be able to participate, but some kids are really listening and rearranging measures to their liking. It is quite cool!!
If you look at the composition, you will notice that no measure ends with a blue and starts with a blue. This was done intentionally. Students didn’t like the way that sounded. They also made a conscious effort to use those measures with the blues to break up the measures with reds, yellows and terra cottas, otherwise, they thought, it sounded too much alike and thus boring. When we tried several versions without the breaks, I couldn’t agree more. However, I make sure to keep my thoughts to myself, as this is their composition, not mine. In the end, they were very pleased with their work, as was I!!
Today’s rehearsal was all about practicing it. We did play it several times through, but that can get monotonous, so I came up with a way to make it a little more fun AND assess at the same time! I told them to listen to what I played through body percussion and to hold up the number of fingers that corresponded to the measure they thought it was. So if I played measure 5, hold up five fingers. I also made a point to mention that your neighbors may be incorrect, so the best thing is to do is to answer for yourself…of course thinking about it now, the better thing would have been for kids to first listen while looking at the measures and decide in their minds and THEN closed their eyes and hold up their fingers. Live and learn!
It was a very fun lesson and kids were able to check their work, as well. A win, win!