Day 12 +
We are essentially done writing. We got through version 2.1 and basically had everything in place. I added an accompaniment for each song since none of them know how to do that yet. The last step before printing a "final" version is to add dynamics and finish formatting for page turns and whatnot. The four songs all sound completely different. I'm really proud of my students for seeing this project through to fruition. The benefit of the work they've done is that by the time we have the song finalized, they have basically learned it already. It's now mostly a matter of learning the harmonies.
We have a little under a month before the concert (June 14). After the concert, I'll choose one or two of them and I'll make a longer post where I'll show you examples of the process. Thank you for those that have followed along. I hope to be able to present at NAfME and ACDA conventions and other places about this. If you'd like me to help you figure out how to do it with your class, I'd be happy to. I could meet over the phone, over Zoom, or in person. Let's talk!
One last thing....speaking of composition, if you haven't listened to my podcast, Moveable Do, you should. I have a series of interviews where I talk to composers about their lives, musical journeys, and works. Some of the people I've interviewed: Jake Runestad, Jocelyn Hagan, Tim Takach, Rollo Dilworth, Rosephanye Powell, Paul Aitken, Roger Emerson, Kurt Bestor, Kurt Heinecke (VeggieTales), Wayne Lytle (Animusic), Dan Forrest, and Eric Whitacre...just to name a few. I'm closing in on the end of season 4, so I have 50+ interviews for you to binge. Check out Moveable Do!
I couldn't get to this earlier this week, sorry.
Day 10 - I took the suggestions from the "Bare Bones" copy and put them all together and started stitching the individual melodies together so it would be singable from beginning to end. I also added chord symbols so I could provide basic piano accompaniment as we worked - v1.1. In class, we first roughly sang through the entire song from beginning to end to get a feel for it. Then we talked about elements we liked and didn't like. They suggested some note changes; we identified some places where a phrase should repeat; some classes decided that they wanted a solo or two in their piece.
I wanted them to come up with their own harmonies, but I realized that they're not really ready for that. We haven't done enough work on that. Next year, I'll focus on that earlier in the year so they'll be ready for this project. I told them I would suggest some harmonies in v1.2 and they could decide if they like them or want to discard them.
Day 11 - We were now working with v1.2. The song in each class has expanded to 3 pages because I added another staff for harmony parts. We worked through the pieces phrase by phrase and examined the harmonies I had suggested, tried some things out, tried out some solos, and tried to come to pretty firm consensus on the choral parts. I still only have piano chords there. I'm fairly good at comping, but I'm going to start to work on actually writing out the piano accompaniment - mostly so i don't forget what I'm doing on the piano, but also so i can make sure they don't all sound the same by me doing my standard improvisation style.
By the end of Day 11 yesterday, all classes were able to sing from beginning to end of their piece in a manner that truly felt like a song. We've only been doing this for the equivalent of about 2 weeks of school (if we were doing it every day) and we now have 4 songs that are usable and taking amazing shape!
One last note: something surprising happened this week. I've been having a really hard time recently. I was feeling "trapped" teaching middle school. I've really wanted a higher ed position and felt that this job was "beneath" me. I hate to admit it. I haven't felt like that all the time, but I'll admit that the past couple weeks it was really eating at me. Tuesday (Day 10) was a really hard day for me - both in school and out. That evening, I was out in the backyard chopping wood (fallen tree - different story) thinking things over when suddenly I found myself humming some of the melodies that my students had written. Some of the lyrics they chose suddenly came to my mind: "Challenges are what makes life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful," and "Don't limit your challenges, challenge your limits," and "Never forget the ones who saw greatness in you even in your darkest moments." I was suddenly filled with gratitude for my students in a way that I haven't been since I started here. The very students that I had been grumbling about are the very ones that helped me through the problem I was having! What a mind-set shift!
Well...it's time to start writing some piano accompaniment and creating v2.0! I'm not sure what next week will look like - we have school-wide testing on Tuesday and Thursday, so I'll probably have some interruption in the project.
Composer, Choral Conductor, DMA Student,