CONTACT: STEPHEN PRADARELLI
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0007; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: Feb. 16, 2000
Rollover, Beethoven: Aspiring teachers learn composition of another sort
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Aspiring teachers in one University of Iowa professor's
methods course will spend part of this semester learning about music education.
But don't expect to find any triangles or wooden blocks lying around his classroom.
Instead, assistant professor Carlos Rodriguez will teach his 20 undergraduates
how to compose their own music with the help of computers, synthesizers and
MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) technology. While no one in the
class expects to become a Beethoven or Bach, Rodriguez says his students will
learn how to teach music appreciation to children in an unconventional --
and, he hopes, more exciting -- way.
"In the past, teachers learned how to lead students in listening to
music, playing instruments or singing," said Rodriguez, who teaches music
education in the College of Education. "With computer technology, these
prospective teachers can do the ultimate fun thing in music -- composing.
When I was in school, the only people who composed music were composers."
Students in the Methods and Materials for the Elementary Teacher course,
many of whom have no musical background, will begin the unit by familiarizing
themselves with some of the features of the synthesizers, which are capable
of mimicking hundreds of instruments and natural sounds. Then they'll begin
recording and mixing tracks -- drums first, for example, followed by bass,
guitar and maybe keyboard.
"We ask them to explore," Rodriguez said. "After they write
their beginning melodies, we try to instill some musical sensibilities in
them. We ask them, 'What do you think of this? Do you use repetition? Does
the piece have variety? Does it generate interest in your listeners?' We talk
to them the way we would want them to talk to their kids in nurturing them
to learn music."
While students will work largely on their own in composing the pieces, using
headphones and individual keyboards, Rodriguez said they will also be encouraged
to give feedback to one another. The compositions also will be graded.
"It's very scary for some students, but also very rewarding,"
Rodriguez said. "Some people who come into the class say 'I can't do
Students quickly rise to the task, however. Some who have taken the class
in past years have been inspired to explore music further.
"The class encourages students not just to hear, or listen, to music
but to communicate musical ideas," Rodriguez said. "The emphasis
isn't on technology but on creativity and encouraging a more child-centered
approach to music education."