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Improvisation in the Elementary Music Classroom

Presentation for the Michigan Music Conference, January 2013

Shannan Hibbard

on 7 April 2014

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Transcript of Improvisation in the Elementary Music Classroom

Why Should Our Students Improvise?
Improvisation can reinforce musical concepts that might be the focus of a lesson and develop skills in listening. (Goldstaub, 1996)
What is your experience with musical improvisation?
Improvisation Activities
Improvisational Development?
Kratus' Seven Stage Theory of Improvisational Development, 1991
How Can We Encourage Improvisational Development?
freedom of choice
Getting Started In Improvisation
Help students focus on where to put their thoughts
suspending judgment (of self and others)
ensemble interaction (group awareness and equality)
process vs product
Shannan L. Hibbard,
University of Michigan

Creative Improvisation in the Music Classroom
“Spontaneous creation comes from our deepest being and is immaculately and originally ourselves” (Nachmanovitch, 1990, p. 10).
“Why is it that a garage band can create its own music but the average conservatory graduate is incapable of creating music even for his/her own instrument, and has likely never played a note that did not originate from a dead composer's pen?” (Agrell, 2008, p. 3).
Rise of the formal concert hall in the nineteeth century gradually put an end to concert improvisation (Nachmanovitch, 1990).
In the industrial era, the division of labor and specialization has promoted a fragmentation in society and virtually all organizations.
“You in your small corner and I in mine” (Vaughn, 1973, p. 35).
“But the act of improvisation is itself a form of preparation, a process-based activity rather than a ready-made product. In music, the improvisor is always prepared for the next unforeseen departure, a condition which is much more reflective of the process of life itself where unforeseen events often present the greatest challenges and almost certainly have the greatest import. This places improvisation at the core of life rather than in the margins” (Paton, 2011, p. 115).
“Learning to express oneself is at the heart of any sound education.” (Azzara, 1999, p. 25)
“Through the process of improvisation, teachers provide ways and means for all students, of every age and experience, to find a place for the sounds within them. The ultimate aim of a musical education may be to give balance to “our music” and “their music”, to the old and the new in music, to what's notated and what's not, to traditions and their potential for change” (Campbell, 2009, p. 140).
1. Exploration-random sounds
2. Process-oriented
3. Product-oriented
4. Fluid stage-technical skill to render playing automatic
5. Structural Improvisation-ability to apply structural techniques
6. Stylistic Improvisation-one or more improvisational styles
7. Personal Improvisation-new, original improvisational style
“We block creativity by labeling it as unusual, extraordinary...we segregate it by establishing systems of star performers” (Nachmanovitch, 1990, p. 121).
“Creativity is essential for exploratory improvisation. Students develop creative thinking through activities that guide them to find unusual uses, extend boundaries, reflect on their creation, and change their perspective. Your classroom must offer students an environment that encourages them to think creatively. Do not look for right or wrong answers. Encourage divergent thinking.” (Volz, 2005, p. 53).
Consider the physical space
furniture arrangement
specific school concerns
Consider students comfortability on instruments
(Goldstaub, 1996)
“By starting with activities that are not too far removed from the child’s immediate experience, creativity becomes integrated within the child’s existing musical experiences and skills. Furthermore, by locating children in a range of musical settings they come to recognise the multidimensional nature of music resulting in greater valuing of what they already know, think, and can do” (Burnard, 2000, p. 21).
Feierabend, J. M. (2000). First steps in music for preschool and beyond. Chicago, IL: GIA Publications.
“Spontaneous creation comes from our deepest being and is immaculately and originally ourselves” (Nachmanovitch, 1990, p. 10).
Talking about Improvisation
Encourage students to differentiate between comments that are
descriptive: using specific parameters such as pitch, rhythm, dynamics, texture and color.
evaluative likes, dislikes, personal preferences

A discussion session that separates these two types of comments encourages
Musical Exquisite Corpse
(Volz, 2005)
Walking Duets
(Goldstaub, 1996)
(Agrell, 2008)
Oh Yeah?
(Agrell, 2008)
“We must deepen our understanding of what it means to improvise and find ways to incorporate improvisation into the core of the curriculum”
(Azzara, 1999, p 25).

“By being nonjudgmental to the world around us, we allow ourselves to see new connections and new possibilities”
(Goldstaub, 1996, p. 45).
We shall not cease from exploration,
And at the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
“When will you begin exploring?”
(Eliot, 1922)
(Volz, 2005, p. 53)
(Goldstaub, 1996)
Exquisite Corpse
(Volz, 2005)
useful constraints
Full transcript