Theses Doctoral

The Museum and the Laboratory: Classical Music as Stimuli for the Design of Pedagogical Strategies for Improvisation

West, Julia Maurine

The purpose of this collaborative inquiry (CI) dissertation study was to examine pedagogical strategies designed to open Western classical music to improvisation. Piano teacher-participants formed a collaborative inquiry cohort as co-researchers to design and implement pedagogical strategies for use with their piano students, ages 8 to 10. Improvisation appears to occupy a limited role in practices commonly associated with Western classical music. Since the body of evidence found in Western music history and performance practice reveals traditions that encompassed improvisation, this study was designed to challenge existing pedagogical models associated with Western classical music through experimentation and improvisation.

The prior attitudes and practices of the three participants were assessed through introductory interviews, as well as the collection of videos of teaching practices and preliminary survey data. Three two-hour in-person sessions of the cohort took place, interspersed with interviews and the sharing of video excerpts and co-researcher memos and blogs in an online forum on Canvas. During in-person sessions of the cohort, pedagogical strategies were designed and revisited through reflection following participants’ teaching experiences in their piano studios. Participants explored musical improvisation within a creative community by investigating the processes and experiences of treating Western classical music as an impetus to creative thought and improvisatory realization by their students. Findings illuminate patterns of interaction that illustrate the function of strategies for musical creativity and the applicability to pedagogical practices.

Several overarching themes, addressing the purpose of the study, emerged through my analysis of data, pertaining to the dynamic nature of music, call and response as formative, and knowledge and novelty as means and ends. Participants demonstrated distinct operational definitions of improvisation, each of which appeared to connect to a model of awareness and responsiveness through the expression of interrelated themes. Whether spontaneously generated or chosen intentionally, limitations promoted improvisation as the exploration of novelty, advancing and emanating from a knowledge base. By revealing pedagogical practices that demonstrate heuristic models for experimentation through variability practices, this study illuminates patterns of interaction that open works of musical art to the sociocultural activity of improvisation, through which a multiplicity of meanings can take form.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Arts and Humanities
Thesis Advisors
Custodero, Lori
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
July 30, 2020