As children come to learn more and more about how music is put together, they will begin to have new ears to hear any music. They add critical thinking skills to their musical experiences and will enjoy many kinds of music. They also come to understand and love music as they have hands on experiences creating their own music. They can have that experience through private lessons or by just doing some of the fun lessons that I will share.

The lessons will center on the Elements of Music: Beat, Rhythm, Style, Melody, Expression, Form, Timbre, Harmony, and Texture. You can watch as children become confidant at discussing these elements and hearing them in the music they listen to each day. They will enjoy using these elements to create their own music.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Composers' Union

One of my favorite enrichment classes to do with my 4th and 5th grade students was called the Highmeadow Composers' Union (HCU).  This could easily be adapted for younger students.

The idea was that the Composers' Union was a company that contracted out its employees to various other companies who needed new and original musical compositions.  I conducted this class or unit as if it was a real company.  The children needed to apply for the job.  They needed recommendations from "former employers" (teachers, parents, etc).   They had to create a resume of their former musical experiences including any school experiences, private lessons, or musical activities they had participated in.   They received a welcome letter from the CEO of the company.

The class was designed to give them opportunities to compose songs and other musical composition based on whatever level they could do this.  There were many options given to them.  The more options, the better. They got a letter from the payroll department on the first day of class giving them the guidelines for their composition based on the work they completed during their stay with the company.

Class description:  Change roles for a while and be a composer.  As a  member of  HCU, the Highmeadow Composers' Union, you will be contracted out to different companies who need your musical genius.  You will use computer technology, keyboards, and other musical instruments to perform your tasks.  At the end of the class you will have produced a CD of music written and performed by YOU!

Children are very creative.  They have lived with music all of their lives.  They can create wonderful pieces. The degree to which I expected musical correctness was based completely on the level of each student.  A student who had 3 years of private piano lessons was expected to understand notation and to be accurate if they composed a piano piece.  If a student with only 1 year of private lessons tried to write a piano composition, then my expectations were less. IMPORTANT: Since I had the resumes ahead of time, I could create jobs based on what my students were capable of doing.  

My students already were acquainted with music notation software and had some experience with using it. But certainly it is not necessary for creating music.  You as the teacher have to make that decision.  I had computers in my music room and had Finale Notepad installed on them.  Notepad is a free beginning notation program from Finale.  It is available here to download:  http://www.finalemusic.com/products/finale-notepad/

My students were required to create, publish, and record each piece of music they created for this class.

Here are the documents I created for this class.  Feel free to adapt them for your own needs.

** When you look at the sample job descriptions, remember that I created these based on the skills I knew my students had.  You will have to create your own job descriptions based on what your students or children can do.  For younger children, these could all be songs they create or simple instrumental pieces on whatever instruments you have at your disposal.  I had my students publish their music so they would have written copies.  That was in my curriculum so it was required at my school. You do not have to do that.  Adapt this to your needs and desires.  It is first and foremost a chance for children to create music.  The creative process is only effective when you work at whatever level the children are capable of doing.  And it needs to be FUN!

EMPLOYEE RECOMMENDATION FORM:  (I used this same form to write my final evaluation of each student at the end of the class)

                                                                                    February 24, 2012

To Whom It May Concern,

___________________________ worked as an employee of my company from

_______________ through _________________.  Based on the work this employee

accomplished while working for the company


I recommend this person for employment for the following reasons:
Job skills:           

Work habits:     


I do not recommend this person for employment for the following reasons: 

Job skills:           

Work habits:

                                                             Name _______________________________
                                                                        Company _____________________________


                                                                                                                        November 20, 2012

Dear               :

I am so happy to hear you are joining the Highmeadow Composer’s Union.  Our company was formed back in 1988 and has been producing music for several of our local businesses since then.  I am always excited to have new employees join the company.  Your creative energy will be an asset to us all. 

I look forward to meeting you on December 3 when the new staff will have our first business meeting.  HCU has already accepted orders from several businesses for this upcoming year.  I will be anxious to see which part of those jobs you will be interested in.

Please bring a resume with you listing all experiences you have had in music thus far during your illustrious career.


Mrs. Harbertson
President and CEO of HCU


Highmeadow Composer’s Union    A letter from payroll…

Since you are working for a limited period of time, payday is at the end of your job assignment.  Listed below are the fees you can earn for this job.

Wages are the fees you earned for each job completed. ($100.00 per job)

Employee fees refers to money ($25.00 each) that was subtracted from your paycheck to repay the company for the following:

Janitorial fees when the custodian needs to clean up after you.
          (Responsible Citizen), Organization, Common Sense
Consultant fees if your employer has to help you with a project.
          (Responsible Citizen), Problem Solving, Perseverance, Initiative    
Wasted time fee
          (Responsible Citizen), Responsibility, Organization, Common Sense,
Disturbing other employees fee
          (Responsible Citizen), Common Sense, Integrity

Typical salaries earned on this job.

(4)             Top Employees earn $400.00 and above

(3)             Average employees earn about $300.00 - $399.00
(2)             Below average employees earn $200.00 - $299.00
(1)     The employee that earns less than $200 may have trouble finding another job without upgrading some job skills.

Name ___________________________________________

Wages (Gross income) _____________

Employee Fees _________________________________________________________

Net Income ___________________




Phone Number

Previous jobs:

What instruments do you play?

How long have you taken lessons?

What kind of compositions have you created?

What do the following words mean?
1.   Rhythm

2.   Melody

3.   Form

4.   Dynamics

5.   Tempo

6.   Style

7.   Timbre

8.   Time Signature

9.    Rondo


Job #1 

1.  Write a song that will be a radio commercial for your favorite candy bar. 
2.  Once you have your song created, you must publish it using Music Time Deluxe on the computer.  Add your lyrics. 
3.  After it is published, prepare to record your commercial. Will you sing “a cappella” or accompanied?

Job #2 

1.  Write a lullaby in ¾ time that will be published on a CD for mothers of new babies as they leave the hospital.   Write your lyrics below and sing a melody to go with them.  
2.  Once you have your song created, you must publish it using Finale Notepad on the computer.  Add your lyrics. 
3.  After it is published, prepare to record your lullaby. Will you sing “a cappella “ or accompanied?

                                                                           Job #3 

1.  Write a simple piano piece in 4/4 time that uses chords in the left hand for beginning students in the key of C using C hand position.  These will be published using Finale Notepad and sold to piano teachers at a conference in March of 2012. 
2. The basic framework for this assignment is located on your computer under “My Documents”, “My Music”.  Please open the file titled “Piano” and write a right hand part (treble clef) that sounds good with the chords that are already there. 
3.  Give your piece a title.  Practice it and be prepared to record.

Job #4 

1.  Write a country western song that will kick off a fund raiser for your favorite charity.  
2.  Publish your song using Finale Notepad.  Let the teacher show you how to add chord symbols to your song. 
3.  Use a keyboard for your accompaniment.  Choose a country western style, then play the chords and sing along.  
4.  Record your song with the accompaniment.  

Job # 5  

1. Write a blues piano piece for our piano teacher’s convention.  The basic frame for this assignment will be found again on your computer.  It is called “blues”.  Make sure your right hand sounds good with that left hand accompaniment.  
2. Publish your music.  
3. To make your recording, try to play it if you are a piano student.  If not, the computer will play it as you record.
Job #6 

1.  Compose an ABACA (Rondo)composition for a tap dance class.  Make sure it is easy to dance to this music and that the dancers will hear the changes in form.
2.  Please use a keyboard for this assignment.
3.  Using the recording ability of the keyboard will be helpful.  Read the recording section of the 4th grade Keyboard lessons to get suggestions.  Then ask for help if you still need it.

Job #7

1.   Compose a piece of music to be used in a movie.
2.   The movie is a spy thriller.  The scene is where
      the spy is breaking into an office to steal
      documents to be used as evidence.
3.   Use the keyboard. 
4.   Use the recording ability of the keyboard to help you.  Layer the music with at least two layers.       
5.   Record directly from the keyboard.     

Job #8 

1.     Compose a recorder piece for an elementary school recorder book using the following notes: GABCD.
2.     Publish the song in Finale Notepad.
3.     Make an accompaniment using a keyboard.  (Get help with chords)
4.     Record yourself playing your song on your recorder with the accompaniment in the background.

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