Mission Vista High School (Vista, CA)

  • Instructor: Anne Fennell
  • Class Title(s): Music Composition I, Music Composition II, Music Composition/Larger applications (the 3rd and 4th class will be approved next year)
  • Grades Levels Included: Because we are a new high school, we are growing one grade level at a time.  This year we have 9th grade, next year we add 10th, and so on.
  • School Profile:  Public magnet school; enrollment 500 students.
  • Structure of NTM Class(es): Music Composition I is a single term class.  (We are on a 4 x 4 schedule, where one traditional academic year is completed in 18 weeks because we meet with the students every day for 90 minutes.  Students take 4 classes each term for a total of 8 classes every full grade level year).  The class is 90 minutes, every day, for 18 weeks.  By the end of this school year 39 students will have taken and completed this class.  Our total school enrollment is 195 students so I have a 20% of the school population in this class.  Our other local high schools are running 8% of the school enrollment in instrumental music, and much less in choral music. 

  • Software Used: GarageBand, Sibelius, Logic Pro Hardware_Used: Apple's MacBook Pro
  • Hardware Used: Apple's MacBook Pro

  • Class NTM Activities:  The Level 1 class is truly differentiating instruction at its best because I have complete non-readers of music ranging to students with advanced music reading.  As a result, I'm considering this an 'entry' level music class for some and a higher/advanced application class for others; luckily music composition lends itself to differentiation.  My goal:  can they read, write, create, and compose music while understanding and applying the elements of music.  This year, their compositions are somewhat programmatic and theme-based while I integrate the musical aspects from theory and the elements of music.   Students blog, reflect, and share their thoughts on their pieces, in addition to creating artist statements about each piece. (They also keep a running Active Listening Journal, In this Moment Journal, and a Blog Journal).  In this way they begin to articulate their applications and motivation behind the piece and how the elements reflect their motivation.   Level I begins with the loops of GarageBand and finding characteristics of quality compositions, and slowly moving to composing larger and larger sections of pieces while still adding loops. By the end of the term students arrange folk songs and create their own complete compositions. Composition II will apply the praxis of composition with more advanced music theory.

  • History: This class is part of a pathway of courses offered by a new dual magnet high school in Vista, CA.  As a founding faculty member I was asked to create a series of classes that could put students on a career pathway using technology.  I spoke with the neighboring university and the two community colleges and found out that all three were beginning to offer classes in music production.  I also learned that all three colleges were getting students who couldn't read or write music, none-the-less talk about music, intelligently.  My goal was to create classes, designing backwards, from their needs so that the students could walk seamlessly into the university theory and music production classes.

  • Success Stories from NTM Activities: Students are DYING to get into the class - and largely because they realize that I will take anyone in who wants to learn and compose.  We had to stop the class growth because as a small school it was pulling kids from the other electives.  Next year it will be packed!  We have had several performance opportunities:  Twice this past fall the local Starbucks allowed us to come in and share our music.  The store turns off their system and I have my computer and Bose Wave radio up and running with all of the pieces. Parents and students pack the place, everyone buys coffee and hot chocolate, and each student's piece gets presented LIVE!  After the student stands and presents their artist statement to the group, we then play their piece for all to hear (and watch on the computer screen). Then the group shares their thoughts (they have to use an element of music in their sharing).  What blew me away was the parents!!!  They caught on to the language and started sharing as ACTIVE AUDIENCE MEMBERS!  It was amazing!  (By the way, we usually have about 30 people at each event, so it is filled with great listeners and Starbucks loves it because they are buying coffee!).  Aside from that, each time we've done this, regular customers from the store sit and begin to comment as well.  How fantastic!

    Next week we are presenting all of their latest compositions at the Apple Store - we'll have 30 students present their pieces, artist statements, and poetry they wrote (as an extension of their music).  It will be a walking gallery, of sorts. In addition, these pieces are in Sierra Leone, Africa right now on a cultural exchange with students.   After hearing the students' music, teenage villagers will write poems and send them back to us!

  • Advice_to_Others_Starting_NTM_Project: GO FOR IT!! I have never felt so rewarded as a teacher AND so in touch with students of the year 2010.  I've been teaching 23 years and this has been an absolute gift to me!  Yes, I was terrified - not because of the music - but because of the technology.  Now it's just pure joy!!  The black note on white paper, interpreted by a single conductor begins to lose its effect when we are dealing with students that are exponentially more creative than I am as a single human.  What these kids are learning now has propelled them into the technological era in a realm that I wish was available to me, at their age.  These students are capturing their creativity at a young age and harnessing it to  express themselves at such a young age - which means they won't have to go 'digging' or looking for it when they are in college or later.  How wonderful!!!!!  In addition, our students are ADDICTED to immediate music and they can do this in this class. They can now compose, download, send, and forward their music to anyone, anywhere and their excitement is greater than I've ever seen in a music class because they have 100% ownership of their creativity.
  • Advice to Others Starting NTM Project: I'm am thrilled to know this site is available.  I would love to have music exchanges with any other teachers!
  • Date Submitted: April 2010
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