Creative Music Making Course – spring 2012

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Eastman School of Music – January 17 to February 28, 2012

This was the second  year in which I facilitated a Creative Music Making (CMM) course as part of the Eastman School’s Arts Leadership Program.  As in the first year (2011) the course consisted of seven weekly 2-hour-long sessions focused on freeform improvisation based on my book, Creative Music Making, published by Routledge Books in 2005.


In each session the participants performed and recorded improvised pieces for immediate playback, listening, analysis, and discussion.  The final session on February 28 included a 60-minute open recital in which all participants performed improvised pieces for fellow students in the audience.

The CMM course was open to all instrumentalists.  Participating students in the spring 2012 course performed on clarinet, bassoon, trombone, guitar, violin, viola, cello, percussion, piano and voice.  As is normally the case, virtually all of the participants had never played a free form improvisation before.  At first, there was the normal skepticism about the guidelines: 1) you can play whatever you want to play at any time; and 2) you should try to listen, but if you don’t listen, there’s no penalty. However, by the second week the improvised pieces had already reached a higher level of performer confidence in a process of development that continued throughout the seven weeks.

First improvised piece on the CMM final recital on February 28, 2012

The instrumentation of the participant ensembles varied each week, and with each succeeding session new levels of listening and musical responsiveness were achieved.  Every one of the pieces, from the first 90-second improvisations to the final 20-minutes-plus pieces, was, in  my opinion, worthy of being presented to an audience on a recital, provided that the audience was duly informed about the free form improvisation process.

Second improvised piece on the CMM final recital on February 28, 2012

Congratulations to all the participants on their accomplishments: Melissa Birkhold,  bassoon; Gabriel Condon, guitar; Alistair Duncan, trombone/piano; Katherine Hagen, viola; Do Yeon Kim, cello; Richard Li, clarinet; Lauren Mcallister, voice/piano; Regina Park, violin; Seth Russell, cello; Nicholas Tariello, percussion.

Click the link below to see the results of the participants’ final questionnaires.

CMM-Q-Aire Answers

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