Abstract

The purpose of this descriptive case study was to examine two veteran string teachers’ perceptions of the benefits and challenges of including a theme and variations composing project in the middle school orchestra curriculum. Specific research questions were: (a) How do the participants describe their musical backgrounds, experiences with composing, and their attitude toward teaching composing? (b) What do the participants perceive as benefits and challenges of including composing in the curriculum? (c) How do the participants’ perceived benefits and challenges of including composing change as a result of including composing in the curriculum? The two participants had extensive and varied musical backgrounds. Neither had been asked to compose music prior to college. Neither received training on teaching composing in college. The perceived challenges described by the participants were the teacher’s role in a composing project, the development, planning and preparation of composing projects, student readiness for composing, impact on performances, and the teacher’s technology skills. The perceived benefits described by the participants included students’ level of engagement when composing, the role of teacher as facilitator, the quality of students’ musical ideas, development of students’ musical understanding, and enhancement of students’ performance skills. Despite recognizing benefits from the composing project, the two participants expressed concerns regarding the amount of time required to implement and assess a composing project, and the lack of pedagogical materials to use for composing projects.

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