Composing for the future

By Sarah Hunton

The Music Preparatory Program at Oakland University will be hosting two music composition workshops during the final two weeks of July.

The first workshop, the Intensive Musicianship and Composition Workshop, will take place July 18-22 from 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.  The second workshop, the Creative Computer Composition Workshop, will take place July 25-29 from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.  Both are geared towards instrumental and vocal students aged 12-18.

The Intensive Musicianship and Composition Workshop will teach students to develop their aural skills through sight-singing exercises in the first hour of the class.  For the second hour of the class students will develop basic piano skills including playing scales and triads.

In the final hour of the class, students will compose variations on a musical theme by Mozart. According to Jenine Brown, the teacher of the course, learning to compose based off the example of Mozart is a good place to begin.

“The musical language of Western classical music was very much commodified with Mozart … (composers after Mozart) really looked to Mozart as a composer to both imitate and do what they wanted to do with,” Brown said.  ” I also chose him because he tends to be the easiest thing to start with when you are first composing.”

Students will only need a background in music notation.  No further music theory knowledge or piano skills are necessary.

In the Creative Computer Composition Workshop participants will be using free web-based tools, such Myna and Audacity, to create musical compositions.  With these programs, students will be able to access the work they complete during the workshop on their home computers.

In addition to composing, participants will learn about creating and editing recordings and looping tracks.

Melissa Hoag, Assistant Professor of Music Theory at OU, also believes that hosting these workshops will benefit students who wish to pursue music at OU.

“The summer workshops the Preparatory Division offers provide important outreach to the community,” Hoag said. “An entry-level encounter with composition can be a valuable enrichment experience, and will make use of music theory knowledge. For those who plan to continue with music as their focus of study in college, the fundamentals in music theory course (MUT 111) offered at OU is an excellent opportunity to prepare for university studies.”

Brown, a Ph.D. candidate in music theory at the Eastman School of Music, will teach both of the workshops.  Brown teaches music theory and composition courses through OU’s Music Preparatory Division and believes that music theory is an integral aspect in learning to become a better musician.

“Music theory teaches you a particular way of talking about music,” Brown said.  “There’s lots of terminology that especially younger students can learn in order to communicate better with their teachers and with other musicians about what they are playing.  It gives them a better way to talk about what they want to do, or what they are going to do musically.”

One benefit to hosting these workshops at OU will be to prepare music students for their college coursework.

“One of the major things that incoming students are lacking in as far as a music student would be their background in theory,” Daneen Stapleton, Outreach Coordinator for the Department of Music, Theater, and Dance, said.  “At the high school level they just don’t get as much theory as they need to in order to be fully prepared at the college level.”

For more information about these workshops, contact [email protected] or call (248) 370-2034.