This week’s interview features one of our co-authors, Theresa Hoover. Theresa is a former middle school band director, currently working as a music education and technology integration specialist. In this episode, Theresa talks about how she incorporated creativity and music composition in her middle school band classes.
To start the 2020-2021 school year, Theresa’s band classes were completely virtual. In March, the students transitioned back into the classroom for a hybrid/concurrent model. All students attended class at the same time, some on Zoom, some in-person. Initially, the students in the classroom could not play wind instruments, but in May that decision was reversed and students were allowed to play for a limited amount of time during each class period.
Theresa knew at the beginning of the year she wanted to include diverse repertoire by diverse composers, and she wanted to focus on student creativity. That drew her towards 13 Moons, by Jodie Blackshaw. The piece is a composing piece consisting of four movements, each of which included a melody, countermelody, harmony, and ostinato. The work also included information to teach various compositional techniques, such as soli and tutti, tone color, layering, and rounds. Students learn to play the music elements, then learn about compositional techniques, then work together as an ensemble to decide how to arrange the piece.
Theresa taught these concepts while the classes were fully virtual, which required some creativity to ensure the students understood the ensemble specific information. She knew she didn’t want to make this project another “virtual band,” where students submitted videos for her to compile. Instead, Theresa put students in small groups and tasked each group with creating their own arrangement of the piece!
The Group Projects
The groups started out by using a Jamboard to brainstorm ideas while in breakout rooms. Students could use their instruments and any technology they wanted. In class, they had already been using Noteflight Learn, and students also had access to GarageBand on their iPads. Many students used Noteflight to compose, included additional instruments in their arrangements, and used the project as an opportunity to be creative!
Theresa enjoyed watching the students work in their groups. Some naturally took on leadership roles. The students were excited to have created something, and loved that it sounded good! Using the elements Jodie Blackshaw provided helped ensure the students would be successful, while allowing enough freedom for true creativity. Students also commented on how much they enjoyed working together. Many had missed the opportunity to make music collaboratively, and this project helped fill that void.
Find that really fine line between having a plan and being open to discovering where it’s going to go.
Theresa’s Advice to Teachers
Theresa found the project was a great way to incorporate student voice and choice, as well as creativity. Sometimes this is difficult to achieve in ensembles, but 13 Moons really lent itself to empowering students in this way. If other teachers wanted to try a project like 13 Moons, Theresa suggests finding the fine line between having a plan and being open to discovering where it’s going to go. Jodie Blackshaw provides suggestions on how to teach various aspects of the piece, so teachers should become very familiar with these suggestions and build a plan around it. However, remember that it’s ok to explore ideas and fall into a rabbit hole!
To learn more about how this project worked in Theresa’s band classes, check out the full interview here: Creativity Through Music Composition (Part 3 of 3).
- Part 1: Creativity Through Music Composition with Sonya Knussen
- Part 2: Creativity Through Music Composition with Robby Burns
Connect with Theresa and learn more:
- Twitter: @MusicalTheresa
- Instagram: @MusicalTheresa
- Creativity With Composing Pieces