A-Level Composition CPD Extra Curricular GCSE Key Stage 3

Running a Composition Club

Having spent the last year basically working online, it is clear that Running a Composition Club is a great way to engage students. This might be a live, in person club, or it could happen online using Teams or Zoom. In the aftermath of the Pandemic it might be just the thing that you need to startup in your school. This blog will look at running a composition club, software you might use and some great resources that you might consider using.

What is a Composition Club?

We focus a great deal on instrumental playing & singing in schools. And yet composition has a similar weighting in GCSE & A-Level courses. A composition club is therefore a chance to gather students together to learn more about composition and compose together. It is slightly different to composing in class and therefore it is a club where students can explore composition. You may base it around computers, or use instruments to create. There are numerous ways of running it, but the focus is always on composition. Some students may take to composition more readily and easily than an instrument.

Why run a Composition Club?

  • It is something that can be easily added to an extra-curricular timetable.
  • Running the club doesn’t need to be exhausting or hard work.
  • The club might be student led
  • You may consider using lunchtime to run the club.
  • There are resources out there that can be used to support the sessions
  • It will support the work in class on GCSE & A-Level coursework
  • You could use the work created in concerts to showcase the talent of the students
  • Clubs such as these help to increase engagement in music.

Software & Delivery

If you have computers & software available to you then you, then you may choose to look more at music technology. Composing using software and DAWs is often a really helpful way to bring music to life. But I think this needs to always be coupled with the understanding of how music is put together. Composition is way more than loops and clicking notes into Sibelius.

Work out what software you want to use, or have access to. Then work out what your focus is going to be. You may want to run a session on harmony, or melody for example. Software can really help with this, but the musical understanding is key and must be dealt with first.

I use a range of software at School and I love them all for different reasons

Resources

It is important to gather some resources & inspiration to run your composition club:

  1. I Can Compose – This website is fantastic and I love the fact that you can now sign up for an annual subscription. Rachel has brought together a wonderful range of composition resources. They are great to use and cover so much. The Platinum Access plan is only £79 for the whole year and it has so much content included. The Platinum plan includes homework, listening work, projects and cover work. I really do rate the quality and I would suggest that this content would help you in setting up a composition club.
  2. Future DJs Soundtrap ResourcesFuture DJs have put together some amazing packs for schools. They include projects for Key Stage 3 & 4 and are all based around Soundtrap. The content has been created by teachers and I really like the way it is presented. They include presentations, worksheets and example Soundtrap files. Really good stuff.
  3. Passing Notes Education – If you haven’t seen the wonderful webinars from Passing Notes then I really do recommend them. They are for teachers, but they will inspire you with how to deliver composition. They are affordable, really good value and they have fantastic guest speakers. Check them out and book on!
  4. Cubase is brilliant and they are there to support you with how to get students creating music. Richard Llewellyn (r.llewellyn@steinberg.de) at Steinberg is the best person to contact and he will be able to arrange sessions with a leading practitioner. During lockdown I had a great session delivered on zoom by the amazing Dom Sigalas. Cubase is a great tool and a different approach to Sibelius.

Potential for Growth & Development

The potential with a composition club is huge. Not only will you have more students engaged in music making, but hopefully more opting for music. Not only that but you may also get students pursuing Production exams with RSL – Dan Francis is your man to contact for that (danielfrancis@rslawards.com). I also think that we need to focus on composition in equal measure to instrumental playing! Putting on a club for composition is a great way of achieving this.

Running a Composition Club

I love the resources from Rachel at I Can Compose and they got me thinking. That phrase I Can Compose is so powerful and something we need our students to believe in. So often students think of being a musician as playing an instrument, and that is of course part of it. But composition is also part of being a musician and will often hold similar weighting at GCSE & A-Level. I therefore love the idea of running an “I Can Compose” club in my school.

Why not start an I CAN COMPOSE initiative at your school and see the impact!

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1 comment

  1. Yes totally agree and have seen this done well before. Agree with you about having it student led. I encourage my BTEC/A Level music tech students to run this and teach the younger students what they have been learning in class whether it’s composing, sequencing, recording or to do with live sound. KS3 students love the opportunity to work with older students, whilst getting to learn key composition and MT skills. It also doubles up as practise for the Sixth Form Students if they are preparing for presentations, video demonstrations or written work where they have to reflect on their work. And agree that it’s quite an easy addition to an extra curricular timetable in that not much preparation needs to happen and can be tailored to suit the students who attend.

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