This week, Kathryn and Theresa had the pleasure of speaking with Australian composer and educator Jodie Blackshaw. Jodie is a third-generation teacher. Her grandmother was one of the first people to practice Orff-Schulwerk in Australia, and her father taught in a one-room schoolhouse. Jodie’s work for concert band is nothing short of innovative. Her focus on student creativity is unmatched, which is such an amazing example of giving students ownership of their music making. 

Episode 32: Jodie Blackshaw, Creativity With a Student First Mindset

A Composing First Educator

Jodie considers herself a “composing first educator.” Her first degree was in music composition, but following that, she felt called to teach music lessons in the areas she grew up, providing students with opportunities she did not have as a child. As she developed as a private clarinet teacher, so did her interest in children’s creativity! In time, Jodie got an education degree, which she completed while teaching and composing for her ensembles.

Amid everything else, Jodie was introduced to Orff-Schulwerk. She found that Orff-Schulwerk gave her a framework for teaching that was structured, but allowed children more freedom. Too often, that piece is missing when working with students, especially at the secondary level. 

Teaching With a Student First Mindset 

Throughout the conversation, Jodie shares her process, stories, and passions about music and education. Some ‌things we learn about include: 

  • Educational theories that both directly and indirectly shaped her work as an educator and composer
  • How the composing piece, 13 Moons, was developed and her experience performing it with students for the first time. 
  • Jodie’s suggestion to start with rhythm – and her recommendation that all educators take an Orff-Schulwerk course! 
  • Her resource, Teaching Performance Through Composition, which includes rhythm and pitch packs perfect for introducing creativity and composition in ensembles 
  • The importance of scaffolding when teaching in a students-first environment 
  • How Jodie works to make students feel safe in the environment, and why self-discipline is necessary for this kind of work 
  • A way to Pay it Forward and nominate a colleague to receive one of Jodie’s works for free

Creativity Benefits All Students 

While Jodie’s work so far has been focused on concert bands, she agrees these methods can benefit students in any music class. All students should ‌ create music, explore, and think like a composer. We must establish a culture where being wrong is okay, and where trying something new is okay. Learning grows out of moments of imperfection. 

Be sure to check out the full interview to learn more about Jodie’s work and gain great ideas for how to put students first in your music room. Creativity With a Student First Mindset

Learn more about Jodie and her work here:

Listen to the full interview on your favorite podcast app or here, on Anchor!

Check out these interviews to hear more about incorporating composition and creativity in your music classes:

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