Faculty-led Inquiry into Reflective and Scholarly Teaching (FIRST)


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Document Type



Simon, Gregory. "MUCP 183-983: Applied Music Composition--A Course Benchmark Portfolio" (2018). UNL Faculty Portfolios. 108. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/prtunl/108/


MUCP 183-983, Applied Music Composition, is the core of the music composition course curriculum for students at all levels, from freshman to doctoral candidate. Like all applied lesson environments, it is a one-on-one, individualized study that principally involves the instructor giving students feedback on their musical works-in-progress. This time-honored paradigm for teaching composition has produced brilliant artists, but is rife with pitfalls and traps that can tarnish a student’s growth: composition pedagogues can coerce students into writing music like their teachers, or can prescribe a curriculum that makes composition accessible only to students who have already played classical music for years.

As the school of music diversifies, and students enroll whose musical experiences may be more varied than ever, how can composition lessons best serve them? How do we encourage student growth no matter what their musical aspirations, and how do we assess growth without letting our personal preferences color our judgments? Is there a way to “universalize” a composition curriculum so all students—from the doctoral student with an emerging compositional career to the brand new freshman whose only musical experiences have been making beats on their laptop—can grow within it? This portfolio sets out to answer these questions through examination of the Applied Composition curriculum. It introduces the structure and rationale for the course design, alongside current issues within the field of composition pedagogy. It examines strategies for maximizing and assessing student growth, and then applies those strategies to student work to demonstrate how they might be useful to both composition teachers and students.