In episode 37, Kathryn and Theresa talked to Roger Coss, a music educator in California. After getting his bachelors and masters degrees in jazz studies, Roger was teaching second grade at a charter school in San Jose, California while working on a doctoral degree. It was then he discovered how much he enjoyed teaching and made the switch to teach music. Currently, Roger teaches at Hickman Charter School near Modesto, California. He is an avid rock climber and often compares exploration in climbing to the importance of exploration in music. In this interview, Roger talks to us about the importance of creative thinking in music classes.

Episode 37: Roger Coss, Creative Thinking in Music

Why Creative Thinking? 

As a jazz musician, Roger remembers his experiences as a student and his struggles with improvisation and composition. It wasn’t something he encountered in his school music program and he rarely got to make creative decisions as a child. When studying jazz, it was a different story. Decision making and creativity were necessary. So often in schools, students only get to make decisions during recess, because in the classroom, all the decisions come from the teacher. Roger shares that an interview with Maud Hickey helped him see how we can incorporate more creativity into the music classrooms, so that students are making musical decisions and thinking artistically. Her book, Music Outside the Lines, is also a great resource.

Roger shares some additional ideas about what this can look like in the music classroom, including: 

  • Starting with a found sound composition, where students create music using sounds they find around the classroom 
  • Having students write music to go along with short stories 
  • Giving students a playlist of music for them to write a story about
  • Letting the students explore on the instruments first
  • Incorporating this creative thinking in band as well as the general music classroom 

Sometimes what kids need in that moment is just to be creative. And it doesn’t necessarily have to have any grand purpose or teaching a grand skill, but just the act of being creative is what they need now.

What Can You Try Tomorrow? 

Roger suggests just getting the students to create something using the skills or concepts you are already teaching. For example, if you are learning about quarter notes, have students create a pattern using quarter notes and quarter rests. Then continue taking steps like this throughout the year. It doesn’t need to be a big project, especially at first. 

Interview with Roger Coss

Be sure to check out the full interview on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform: Creative Thinking in Music

Connect with Roger and learn more: 

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

Check out these interviews to hear more about creativity in music classes:

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