Composition Residency at
Lowell Elementary (2014)

The Question

How does one compose using graphic notation? What is a motive and how does one create one? What makes a musical phrase? What is a “leitmotif” and how does one incorporate it with the use of instruments?

The Objectives

Students will musically describe their assigned character and use graphic notation to represent a wide range of musical ideas

Students will define “leitmotif” and create leitmotifs with their instruments

Students will write a simple motive and understand that notes can become part of a bigger phrase

Students will learn idiomatic ranges and roles of instruments and have a basic idea of what instruments are good at portraying certain moods

The Process

Students at Lowell Elementary school were led through four composition-based sessions with members of 5HE.  These intelligent students already had a great knowledge of music and were willing and determined to take on the challenge of creating music.  Members of 5HE kept students engaged by leading activities such as asking students to create an antecedent or “question” then trade papers with a partner to create a consequent or “answer.”  Ultimately, using students drew their own graphic scores to incorporate musical ideas into a piece of music matching a specific character.

A student shares their composition with the class.

5HE taught the students at Lowell Elementary how to notate their creative compositions using Graphic Score.



The Impact

“The students at Lowell Elementary showed us the extent to which composition can spark the imagination of students of a wide age range.  We saw the way students talked about music change drastically over the course of our four week visit, and students were ultimately capable of eloquently (and sometimes humorously) describing how to best represent the sneaky Misifú or the dark, haunting Goat through their own musical compositions.” – Eric Heidbreder, Fifth House Ensemble bassoonist

The Final Project

5HE used the students’ new leitmotifs to compose a short piece specifically for the Lowell band. After performing the piece as a trio, 5HE members gave band director Carmen Rivera-Kurban a full score to be played at future Lowell concerts.