Improvisation in Middle School Band

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Teaching Improvisation in Middle School Band Caleb Ocker Temple University Senior Project Fall 2012 12/11/12 Imagine having the ability to express a mood, a feeling, or an image through sound. This creative energy cycles its way through your body and out through your hands, lips, or through an instrument. The power of this feeling, the power of the resulting sound can be moving and inspiring. Without this creative ability, how would music be created? How would songs, poems, or art be developed into such extraordinary pieces of beauty? From the most basic of sounds, to the most complex music consisting of advanced harmonies and rhythms, improvisation is an extremely useful and rewarding skill for every musician of every level. With that said, I believe it is vital that teachers know the best ways to teach students improvisation. In this paper, I will discuss improvisation teaching techniques in middle school band. I will give an overview of methods that have been used throughout the past few decades, and I will report on how improvisation is currently being taught in three local Philadelphia suburban schools. Before I discuss teaching techniques of improvisation in middle school band, I believe it is important to address a few concerns I have with regard to the field of music education. These concerns are due to the fact that many teachers enter their careers in music education unfamiliar with how to teach improvisation and jazz (West 6). For example, long time music educator Julie Scott writes, “Part of the hesitation to teach (improvisation) is because many music educators were never taught how to improvise in their own formal music training (Scott 6).” According to Chad West, some of this is due to the dense music education curriculums that students face in college.

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