Saturday, July 23, 2016

Composition as a Creative Outlet

This week’s focus on composition in the classroom certainly had me reflecting on my own use of compositional activities in my elementary general classroom. Bauer (2014) discussed two different types of composition. The first focuses on using traditional music notation, while the second instead focuses on experimenting with sound to “engage the student’s musical thinking” (p. 60). Most of the compositional activities that I utilized in my own classroom followed the practice of using standard musical notation. I found that informal compositional activities using manipulatives were an excellent way to assess rhythm writing and reading when students exchanged rhythmic compositions with each other. Since I did not have technology available to me in the classroom, I was never able to incorporate more compositional technology or digital audio workstations (DAW) into our classroom work on an individual level.

Since I do have an iPad of my own, I was able to create some technology-centered lessons for us to complete as a whole class, however. My favorite used a voice looping app called Loopy. I first saw this app on Jimmy Fallon’s show when he used it to perform “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” with Billy Joel. I knew immediately that it would be a hit with my kids. Unfortunately, since I only had one iPad available and I didn’t have the option of centers, the lesson only worked very successfully with my smaller classes (ELL, special needs, behavioral, etc.). For this lesson, we would learn a song as a class and compose several coordinating ostinato patterns that could accompany the song. Then we would use the voice looping app to record the class performing each ostinato, layering them together, and finally performing the entire arrangement with the app playing and students singing the song. This was one of my students’ favorite activities throughout the year because it allowed them to be creative and work as a team. They also loved being able to record their own voices and hear the results of their hard work.

I was also very impressed with the video in this week’s lecture about the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus. I was actually introduced to the concept of the Educational Tour Bus last year when I met somebody who works for the company at a wedding and was immediately interestested in the work that they do. After watching the video this week, I am impressed, but not surprised, by the amazing creative accomplishments that the students are able to achieve in such a short amount of time when given the right tools and guidance. Throughout my childhood, adolescence, and young-adulthood, I was involved with a very similar program at a rock music summer camp called DayJams. Campers in this program would take daily group lessons in their instrument, write an original song and rehearse with a band of their peers (with the guidance of a teacher), design a logo concept for a t-shirt and CD cover, and create a music video. At the end of each week, the entire camp would put on a concert for family and friends, which would be recorded onto a CD. I began as a camper, before becoming a counselor, and eventually the vocal teacher and one of the band leaders at the camp. As much as I enjoyed and appreciated my traditional music education during the school year, the creative outlet that I received at DayJams was never matched at school. Creating something original inspired teamwork, personal growth, and a great sense of pride. I am so glad to see that the Educational Tour Bus is taking similar experiences around the country and allowing students the valuable opportunity to create in such a setting. Although a Middle School Chorus classroom is not conducive for exactly this kind of work, I am certainly going to use what I saw in that video, as well as my own memories as a camper and teacher at DayJams, to inspire some creative compositional opportunities in my classroom.


Bauer, W. I. (2014). Music learning today: digital pedagogy for creating, performing, and responding to music. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.


  1. Hi Julia,
    I really enjoyed your blog post this week; I'm especially thankful that you mentioned Loopy, which I have never heard of before and can't wait to experiment with it. The multiple technologies I have discovered through this course are great and I cannot wait to try them in class with students!
    The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus was very impressive for me. Again, it was something I haven't heard of before. In the video, a student commented on the discipline it takes to be a good musician. This is something my high school students acknowledge and demonstrate, but my middle school students do not. Perhaps that is something that takes a little more time to develop. Nonetheless, I was amazed with what the tour bus offered the students. What they were exposed to and learned from that experience was immeasurable.
    Thanks for sharing!

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  3. I have seen the use of Loopy as well and I have never thought about incorporating it into my choral classroom. This is a great idea! Half of my students have access to an iPad and the other half will have chromebooks. For my iPad students this would be an excellent app to utilize in composition/creativity projects. I will have to find an alternative but equally as engaging program for my chromebook users to use. Although Loopy does not focus on serious compositions, it still engages and promotes student creativity.

  4. Hi Hanna!
    I enjoyed your blog this week! In my general music classroom, I also tend to use manipulatives to assess composition in a variety of ways. I am glad this is something you have done as well. I do not have the means to incorporate technology to help with composition, but I am trying to get a few iPads for my room! Thank you for sharing “Loopy” because if I do get the iPads, this is something I will look into. I could even make it and other apps into a center rotation. I, too, enjoyed the video of the John Lennon Education Tour Bus as I have not heard of it before. I think students have so much potential that we are not able to see in our short time with them in class. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!