The subject of this study was how the teaching of composition can serve to address the National Standards in a beginning band program.
The intent of the project was to demonstrate a course of music study that is comprehensive, informative, and creative as it teaches to a number of these National Standards. Most importantly, the project demonstrated how this can be accomplished while allowing enough time for students to learn their instrument--all within the confines of typical lesson scheduling.
The project entails the design, implementation, and assessment of a composition unit that I used with my fourth grade band students from January to June of 1999. The main components of the unit are a series of worksheets, a final project, and a unit ending final examination.
The National Standards for music education list nine content standards to be achieved for each level. Only one or possibly two of the listed standards are typically taught in most beginning band programs. This project addressed the following four Standards: 1) performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music; 2) composing and arranging music within specified guidelines; 3) reading and notating music; and 4) listening to, analyzing, and describing music.
The students worked hard, responded well, and seemed to especially enjoy the more creative parts of the unit. They also tested well at the end of the unit. Not only did they retain their knowledge of basic notation, they also remembered melodic concepts such as theme and variation and tonal centers.
This project demonstrates that beginning band lessons can and should include activities that address what all students should know and be able to do in music.