The first month of my studio-wide "living composer project" has been a productive one! So far, my students have:
1. Completed worksheets that list the living composers they have studied, and those whose music they hear on a daily basis.
2. Had a fun group class about living composer John Williams (see the lesson plan HERE).
3. Started a list of living composers whose music they would like to study this spring.
One of the most interesting things I am finding by doing this project is that my students often don't give much thought to who composes their music. Some of my younger students needed help finding the composer's name on their sheet music. And most of the time, my students didn't know who wrote the music for their favorite movie or video game until they looked it up. It is interesting to see how often students just take music for granted, without stopping to think that a real person wrote the notes they are hearing or seeing on the page! It has definitely given me some food for thought on how our society often views music as an abundant, unlimited resource, rather than an art form that requires talent and skill to produce. (stepping off my soapbox now!)
I thought it would be fun to share the composers that ended up on our worksheets this month. Since most of my students are elementary through intermediate-level, there were lots of living pedagogical composers whose works they have studied this school year, including:
- Nancy and Randall Faber
- Dennis Alexander
- Martha Mier
- Jennifer Linn
- Mike Springer
- Ross Petot
- Jennifer Eklund
- Sarah Reaser O'Brien
- Stacy Fahrion
- Randall Hartsell
Topping the list of composers that students heard on a daily basis were film and video game composers, including:
- Koji Kondo (Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Brothers)
- Jeremy Soule (Elder Scrolls)
- Daniel Rosenfeld (Minecraft)
- John Williams
- Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (Frozen)
- Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton)
- Alan Menken (Disney movies)
- Joe Hisaishi (anime)
- Hans Zimmer
- Andrew Lloyd Webber
- Philip Glass (both film and contemporary classical music)
The most interesting category on our worksheet was the pop music category--as my students were surprised to learn that their favorite pop singers often didn't write their own music (at least, not without lots of help!). However, there were a few pop artists that came up on our lists who actually wrote many (if not all) of their own songs:
- Tyler Joseph (Twenty One Pilots)
- Elton John
- Deadmau5 (electronic music)
- Adam Levine (Maroon 5)
- Dan Reynolds (Imagine Dragons)
- Justin Timberlake
- Bruno Mars
In February, we will start the second "Living Composer" project worksheet, and each of my students will be choosing two composers to research further. I am excited to learn what facts they turn up about these composers next month!
Students will also each be playing music by a new-to-them living composer in February. I have pulled together all of my studio copies and digital music and have created a little "living composer library" that we will be using in our lessons for sight-reading and quick-study pieces. It has been fun for me to go through my library and gather together music by composers that I haven't taught very often--so I think this will be a learning experience for me, too!
What do you think? Do you teach your students about living composers? Who are your favorites? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!