Young Composers & Improvisors Workshop

LREI’s progressive program has always been rooted in song. For 90 years, teachers have encouraged students to sing, play, listen and experiment with sound. But in fall of 2010, this tradition went high-tech with our Young Composers & Improvisors Workshop (YCIW), a program raising the bar for students at LREI—and progressive educators across the city.

The gist: Fifth and sixth graders use computer and Web-based programs like Noteflight, EAMIR and Garageband to compose during their regular, twice-a-week music classes, then they post their scores online, where they get feedback from composer mentors.

“Technology has helped transform our music classroom,” says Middle School Music Teacher Matt McLean, who modeled the program off of the Vermont MIDI Project, an interactive music mentoring and discussion project. “Before we started, several students saw themselves as passionate music makers, but some had never considered music as a means of creative expression.”

After months exploring melodies, rhythms and chord progressions, YCIW students have the opportunity to hear their original pieces performed live. In the fall, Matt arranged for brass and percussion professionals to play a private show for student-composers. In the spring, he brought in an ensemble of conservatory musicians from Mannes College to perform for students and parents in the Charlton Street Performing Arts Center.

Thanks to Matt’s dedication and vision, the YCIW will continue to grow. “The goal is to include other New York City independent schools this spring, and to add composer mentors as more schools take part.”