Friday, February 24, 2012

Composition Festival

One of the things that I’ve enjoyed learning since teaching the Music For Young Children (MYC) program is the composing component. It’s quite an eye opening experience even for myself as I had never been exposed to composing when I was learning piano as a young child. MYC has made it very easy to introduce composing to young children and I have really enjoyed the process of using art to explore ways to develop a simple motive.

I marvel at the students’ creativity, even that of the youngest students in the studio. I started by telling students that they were going to write their music (some jaws dropped while others beamed with excitement!). For our youngest students, we started with rhythm and critter pieces to construct their first melody in 4 beats of rhythm. Composing activities were bite sized and spanned over 4 weeks to complete. We focused on a composing technique each week and students were surprised how easy it was to tweak their little motive to expand into a bigger idea that makes “their composition”. They soon realized that with the “tricks”, they could never be out of ideas :) By the end, it was interesting that students had easily accomplished 4 measures of music and the nicest part was how effortless and fun they thought the process was.

February was spent creating compositions from scratch given the tools and techniques the students have learned in January. We discussed various themes, mood and mapped story lines that helped set the stage for their compositions. We experimented with what barking sounds, a silly clown or a spooky halloween night might sound like and mimicked these sounds on the piano. These included thoughtful use of dynamics, articulation and tempo to convey the musical idea and story. It was very encouraging to see how a few students went a step further to write a poem and set it to music

To spice up composing, we looked at various apps for the younger students and additional tools like Noteflight, an online notation software that students in the early teens enjoyed exploring to develop their composition.

I’m excited that all students are submitting their work for the MYC composition festival this year. The composition festival is held annually to celebrate music making by the young composers. The goal is to encourage participation and to reaffirm that all students can be part of this process and successfully write their own music, a piece of work they can call their own. The satisfaction resulting from this accomplishment is immeasurable, no matter how simple or complex a composition. As I write this, perhaps 15,000 compositions from all over the world have been thoughtfully written, played and appreciated by students, teachers and parents and are all making their way in to the MYC head office in Kanata. It’s so wonderful that with lots of love and support along with a positive and encouraging environment, these kids just can do SO much!

This summer will be busy but fun with video projects of the student compositions. Meanwhile, here’s a short video of a student’s composition that I’m thrilled to share, Kate wrote a song about “The rabbit” :)


  1. Loved your rabbit composition Kate! Congratulations to all your students hard work Wendy!

    1. Thank you Jennifer, Kate will be so excited to see your comment!


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