Songwriting & Composition for the Classroom

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All online MECA courses
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Songwriting & Composition for the Music Classroom

This class is a journey into the world of composition and songwriting. As musicians, we have our own individual quests to explore how we can reach further and more deeply. As teachers, we have the exquisite opportunity to create a world where our students open themselves to landscape of creativity and composition. 

Creativity is at once without limits and without rules. Musical creativity is different than all the others art forms. According to Sufi mystic Hazrat Inayat Khan, “Every word of poetry forms a picture. Sound alone does not make any object appear before us.” 

While there is beauty in that abstract, it is our job as creative forces to develop and nourish means of expression. Further, as teachers, it is our job to create process. 

Course objectives:

Students will have created some new musical works (songs and compositions) and will have experienced an array of approaches to creating new musical works that they can bring to their own work as well as directly to their classrooms. Students will also explore how to manage effective feedback in a group setting. Students will also go through the process of song analysis, evaluation and approaches to collaboration.

"Michael is superb. He really knows how to present the class material, keep it interesting and challenge you constantly to go further you your ability level." 

Instructor: Michael Miles 

f-57-162-9894722_8lJ7K0wQ_Miles_head_shot_2_copyMichael Miles is one of America’s most innovative clawhammer banjo players. His musical background is steeped in the folk and blues of Chicago, JS Bach, Motown, rock and roll, and the American Songbook hits that his blue collar father sang in the car. With an expansive, unpredictable repertoire and high-reaching musicality, his work is described by Banjo Newsletter as “a brilliant tour de force that effectively obliterates the limits of what was thought possible on clawhammer banjo.” Hailed by Chicago’s legendary WXRT as a “genius,” Miles has been lauded by the Chicago Sun-Times: “Give the banjo to Michael J. Miles and you’ll hear a mighty soul stirring sound.” 
In 1990, when Pete Seeger heard Michael’s very first recording, his response was, “This is enough to make me want to learn the banjo all over again.” Over the past 30 years, MIles has created and refined an evocative musical, educational and theatrical voice that has created countless award-winning orchestral compositions, theatrical works and songs.
In 2018, Miles was named by the Old Town School of Folk Music as the “Musician
and Educator of the Year.” That same year, he was honored by the City of Chicago
Deptartment of Cultural Affairs with a grant for his newest composition, “Mississippi
River Suite.” His newest book has just been published by Hal Leonard Gold Mine for
Banjo, and he will debut his newest show, 100 Years of Protest, 1919-2019: A Pete
Seeger Centennial Celebration.
For over 30 years,Miles has taught hundreds of professional music teachers how to
create guitar programs for school, how to play and share folk instruments, and songwriting and composition at schools including VanderCook, Villanova University, West Chester University and
CT State University.
Please visit Miles' websites and to
view and hear his work.

Course Details

Instructors: Michael Miles
3 Graduate Credits
Tuition: $1,020, due in full with registration
Course Code: 6579
Dates: July 8-12, 2019
Location: VanderCook, room TBD
Required text(s):
VanderCook will provide all text(s).
Required Equipment: 
Primary Instrument

VanderCook College of Music

3140 South Federal Street
Chicago, IL 60616-3731
(312) 225-6288

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