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Making Room for the Creating Process in Southern California High School Large Ensemble Settings: A Participatory Action Research Study

Fleischmann, Michael Paul

In performance-driven large ensemble settings such as band or orchestra, the artistic process of Creating found in the National Core Music Standards, which includes improvisation, composition, and/or arranging, is often ignored or omitted. Music educators believe these creative endeavors to be essential in a holistic music education, but struggle to implement them in their large ensemble settings such as band or orchestra. A Participatory Action Research cohort of four high school large ensemble directors collaborated with the researcher to overcome these deficiencies in their teaching practices. Collaboration took place in a synchronous online professional learning community (OnPLC).

During the 16-week collaboration period, participants shared their experiences and delivered two lessons featuring composition, improvisation, and arranging in their large ensemble settings. Participants shared their recorded lessons in the OnPLC for critique. Working within a model of efficient collaboration, participants were able to overcome the obstacles of time, student insecurity, teacher insecurity, and teacher attitude. Participants found that a 7-step creative music strategy was a versatile method by which they could design meaningful lessons without infringing on performance quality. Success was measured by participants’ ability to meet the anchor standards found in the artistic process of Creating. Success was also measured anecdotally by positive student outcomes. Students’ success and aptitude for creating music not only surprised them, but surprised their teachers as well.

Participant post-interviews revealed that all participants believed they were successful in this endeavor, and now have the confidence to implement lessons featuring improvisation, composition, and arranging into their curriculum. Participants believed that viewing recordings of successful lesson examples allowed them to re-define their expectations of what improvisation, composition, and arranging lessons might entail. Consequently, participants found that the obstacles of time, teacher attitude, and student apprehension were easily surmountable by utilizing their own teaching experience and instincts as music educators. Minimal training or professional development was needed for participants to feel successful. An attitude of, “making it happen” was essential for their success.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Arts and Humanities
Thesis Advisors
Custodero, Lori
Degree
Ed.D.C.T., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
February 27, 2020