Theses Doctoral

A Composing Ensemble: Creating Collaboratively With High School Instrumentalists

Colon, Yan Colón

This study was about composing collaboratively. General music classrooms are often creative, fun and spontaneous spaces in which improvisation and composition exist in different degrees. Time is a limitation in the general music classroom and rarely do students have the time to re-work their compositions. On the other hand, the large ensemble provides the students with time to evolve and refine their work. In the large ensemble however, the creative choices are usually out of the students’ hands. This study aimed to understand the experience of students and a teacher composing music together.

The specific focus was to understand the creative process: (preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification) as it may exist in a large ensemble format where young composers write for and with their peers. The study took take place in a New York City after school program in the South Bronx called UpBeat NYC. UpBeat is a not-for-profit, free of charge music program for the community. The participants were high school instrumentalists who participate regularly in large ensembles such as Orchestra and Jazz Band. The ensemble met once a week for the duration of an academic year.

Data collection included interviews, brainstorming sessions, field notes, and the teacher’s journal. Through a deeply reflective and reconstructive narrative, the author’s engagement with the data uncovered themes relating to culture, community, representation and colonialism. Through the author’s vulnerabilities, mistakes and process, the study not only offers a window to look at possible strategies for a composing ensemble, but it also offers a reflection about research and ethnographic positionality.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Arts and Humanities
Thesis Advisors
Allsup, Randall Everett
Custodero, Lori
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 29, 2020