I can't speak highly enough of this organization. The fundamental concept is elegant, fun, and highly effective: asking an entire class of children — not just those who have already shown interest in composition — to write original music; providing them with fun and easy-to-learn tools (using technology such as Noteflight as a "sandbox" to lower the technical barriers to musical creation); providing clear, fun, compelling concepts as guides, but otherwise leaving the creative process open and free, with no stylistic preconceptions; finally and most importantly, placing all of this within the context of the clear and present goal of live performance, with the vital follow-through and meaning that creates. My favorite moments working as a mentor for these students have been those concerts, hearing how good the music is — not just "good considering it was written by children" but really GOOD, as music to listen to for pure enjoyment. The fact that children wrote the music becomes secondary when one is immersed in the sounds of it. My other favorite aspect is reading the program notes the composers write, and seeing how they experience the same desires, doubts, insights that myself and other older composers deal with. And it's saying a lot that these are my favorite moments, because the process of working through the creative process with the students as a mentor is hugely rewarding and inspiring as well.
It's wonderful to see the way this organization is expanding beyond it's home school, bringing this format and set of opportunities to students around NYC and the country. I think this is just the beginning of a transformative presence in the world of music education.
I know what you're thinking: 5th and 6th graders composing full-on multi-instrumental works? Yes! As it turns out, kids make some of the GREATEST composers because they're so creative, they're such fast learners - and perhaps most importantly because they're open minded and don't have many preconceived ideas about music or the compositional process like many of us "older" composers have. This program - The Young Composers & Improvisors Workshop - gives kids all the tools they need to start composing in a way that makes sense to them. Through a system of education, experimentation, and feedback, kids are able to compose songs they can feel truly proud of - and that can be performed by live musicians.
I have immensely enjoyed being involved as a music mentor to kids in this program for the past few years. I have seen and heard compositions written by 11 and 12 years olds that display such creativity - and maturity beyond their years. YCIW makes this possible! After witnessing how kids can learn to compose in the context of this program, I believe there is a composer in all of us.
This organization reaches out to young composers who would otherwise not have as many options for getting their music out into the world. In addition to providing students for a forum to present new musical works, the students learn musical notation which strengthens their ability to communicate with musicians from all over the world. As a songwriter, myself, I know what a tremendous joy it is to hear highly skilled musicians perform my tunes. This organization is opening up a whole new world for these young composers, one that supports their creativity and strengthens their musical skills.