Clair Omar Musser was a famous percussionist known for composing etudes for his students, among many other things. He customized etudes that would work a particular technique or concept. More recently, my good friend, Anne Marie Cherry, shared a story of how one semester, the french horn studio teacher had everyone choose their biggest weakness, and compose their own etudes to work that technical issue. Creating a solution for a specific problem is a great way to solve the problem, but it’s also a fantastic outlet for demonstrating some originality and creativity.
Composing from scratch can be a daunting task for beginning students. But as teachers, we can help facilitate this process. A few months ago, I wrote a timpani solo for one of my private students, one aimed at helping him play more confidently and musically. We recently expanded the project, creating a part for him to compose his own section of the solo. I suggested that he sketch out some ideas out while practicing if inspiration struck. He showed up to his lesson today with several phrases of music, even using motives and themes from the first half of the solo. We worked together to add transition, and even expanded the coda of the solo. What started as a lesson, turned into a collaborative project!
The result: a autonomous motivation and interest in practicing the solo, and multiple levels of learning and understanding music. I’m happy to report that great progress is being made on playing confidently (LOUD) and musically!