This month, we continued our studio-wide "living composer project" by researching a couple of our favorite living composers. In hindsight, it shouldn't surprise me that my students were most interested in researching the pop and film composers they have learned about. This led to a few pretty funny debates. (Is Harry Styles of One Direction really an important living composer? LOL!)
However my students did uncover some interesting facts about many of the composers we have been studying, including:
- John Williams got his start in the music business as a jazz pianist and studio musician. He performed in nightclubs and recorded soundtracks for composers such as Henry Mancini.
- Koji Kondo, video game composer, is also a pianist and once performed live onstage with the band Imagine Dragons.
- Deadmau5, DJ and electronic composer, owns a $5 million home in Canada. (A very interesting fact to the 10-12 year old demographic!) His real name is Joel Thomas Zimmerman.
- Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (of Frozen fame) co-wrote the songs for the movies Frozen and Coco, and they are married with two children.
- Alan Menken has written the music for many Disney movies, including The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. He has won two Academy Awards for his music.
It was a bit more difficult to find facts about the pedagogical composers we are studying--after all, most of them don't have Wikipedia pages or fan sites! However, we did find a few fun facts:
- Nancy and Randall Faber, husband and wife team, live in Michigan and have written over 300 publications for piano students.
- Martha Mier is 82 and lives in Florida. She has written hundreds of piano pieces for students; the most well-known is her "Jazz, Rags, and Blues" series.
- Jennifer Eklund lives in southern California and has a master's degree in historical musicology.
This month we also did lots of sight-reading by living composers in our lessons. One of my favorite ways to work on sight-reading is to play duets--so I pulled together a few fun duet books to use with my students this month. Here are the ones we used (click on the picture for more information about any of these books):
What do you think? Do you have your students research the composers they are studying? Have you discovered any new-to-you living composers recently? I would love to hear from you in the comments!