A case study of music compositional activities in a high school performance-based ensemble: the apple valley composers
Wilke, Adam R.
MetadataShow full item record
Music making is generally considered a creative activity; however, in performance ensembles, it is the conductor who makes most of the creative decisions. Many believe that creative thinking is strongest in music during composition. Leaders in the field of music education have continually articulated a vision for music education that includes a variety of ways to experience music including composition. Despite this broad vision of what music education should be in theory, in practice, American band programs have traditionally focused almost exclusively on the performance of the music of others. The purpose of this study was to examine an exemplary high school performance-based band program in which composition was taught as part of the curriculum and to determine the impact that composition had on stakeholders, including the teacher, students, and alumni. Data were collected from direct observation of ten composition lessons taught over the 2016–2017 school year, supporting documents, and interviews. Interview data came from guided conversations with various stakeholders including the band director, seven current students, and two alumni. Several themes for discussion were delineated from the data including the importance of early creative experiences, the practical application of composition, a lack of continuity between lessons, and the apparent benefits of composition in a band setting. Participants in this case reported enjoyment during composition activities, did not perceive that time spent composing compromised the band’s ability to perform, and also reported growth in their overall musical understanding, particularly in the role of listener. These themes highlight how composition and performance activities can be used in tandem to reinforce musical concepts and develop creative thinking in all music students.