Member Project Spotlight – Nationwide Composer Workshop Program

event-online-session-programD-LuoSeptember 2012 — CSIC Launches a Nationwide Composer Workshop Program for Students in Grades 9-12

I believed at the time, and still believe, that CSIC can make a huge impact in the lives of high school music students. These workshops are just one way that CSIC is working to make a difference. – Program Director, Katy Luo

At Composers and Schools in Concert (CSIC) our goal is to connect professional composers and high school music programs to provide hands-on workshops, mentoring sessions, and school presentations in order to introduce students to the art of composition and create an awareness of contemporary music.  We strive to find new ways to engage and mentor students and to connect composers with schools and that is exactly what our new program is designed to do. Our new Composer Workshops are designed to provide high school aged students with the opportunity to study in a particular area of music composition, and it all begins with recruiting composers to become teaching artists and having them not only design a workshop for a school but also facilitate that workshop. The current goal of the workshop program is to compile the most diverse and dynamic collection of composer workshops into the CSIC directory and to introduce these workshops to school districts nationwide. The program’s long-term goal is to foster the relationship between school music teachers and professional composers and to bring inspiring programming to students by providing them with the opportunity to engage in hands-on experience and allow them the opportunity to compose a final product.

Katy Luo, Program Director at Composers and Schools in Concert, is the director of this program and has been involved with CSIC since February of 2012. Having over 11 years of experience in teaching music, Katy knows the importance of fostering music programs in our schools. Before relocating to the Bay Area in the fall of 2011, Katy lived in New York City where she worked at the Bloomingdale School of Music. There she founded and directed Album For the Young (A4TY): Student New Music Project, a program that commissioned composers to write music for K-12 age kids and encouraged kids to compose for their peers. When Katy moved to the Bay Area she started to look for opportunities to get involved with organizations with a similar mission. Not too long after she moved, Lisa Oman, CSIC’s executive director, and Katy met on LinkedIn and began discussing CSIC and the organization’s goals. “When Lisa introduced me to CSIC, I immediately knew I wanted to get involved. I believed at the time, and still believe, that CSIC can make a huge impact in the lives of high school music students.” These workshops are just one way that CSIC is working to make a difference.

If schools are interested in learning more about our Composer Workshops or would like to sign-up for a workshop, the first step is to visit the CSIC website and submit an inquiry. Teachers will be asked what types of workshops they are interested in, and with that information we will find a composer workshop that is a good fit for each school.  Read the full interview with Katy Luo>>

Katy Luo, Program Director of Composers and Schools in Concert

Interview August 2012

CSIC: Can you please tell us what inspired this new program and how it works?

Luo: I have been teaching music for a long time, primarily as a piano teacher.  I have to say that when you look at music education in this country, composers–especially the living ones–are often the most remote figures in the students’ minds. I am always surprised at how much people talk about the importance of music education, yet there is very little being done to expose students to the idea that the practice of music is an evolving phenomenon, that new music is being created every day, and that they themselves can participate in that process. So much of music education these days is about perfecting a craft, learning about the history of music, and memorizing theoretical rules; quite frankly, I don’t think that is enough. I deeply believe that there is no better way to make kids more excited about music (and want to learn all the rules about it) than by asking them to compose. If they become composers–great!  If they become performers–even better, since they will probably play old and new repertoire alike as if they were the ones who wrote it.  If they decide not to become musicians, they have still learned the importance of mobilizing a creative force in everything that they do.

The design of the Composer Workshops begins with recruiting composers to become teaching artists, and facilitates that process by asking composers to do what they do best—create. We ask the composers to design their own workshops in a wide variety of musical categories–everything from classical, to electronics/instrument building, to sound design for film, tv, and games, and more. CSIC sets a few important guidelines to guarantee that the workshops will not only run successfully in a high school environment, but also that they will provide opportunities for kids to engage in a lot of hands-on activities and a chance to create a final product. Composers can apply online; once a workshop proposal is approved by CSIC it will be made available along with other proposals for schools to browse and select. When a workshop is selected we award the composer/teaching artist a grant to carry out the workshops.

CSIC: How did you get involved with Composers and Schools in Concert and what sparked your interest with this organization?

Luo: I met Lisa Oman, our executive director, on LinkedIn. Lisa began a discussion with me when she saw that I had had experiences introducing young students to composition. Before I relocated to the Bay Area last September, I lived in New York City and worked for 11 years at the Bloomingdale School of Music, a community music school located on the

Upper West Side of Manhattan.  At that institution I founded and directed Album For the Young (A4TY): Student New Music Project, a program that commissioned composers to write music for K-12 age kids, as well as encouraged kids to compose for their peers. Needless to say, when I moved to the Bay Area I started looking for opportunities to get involved with organizations with a similar mission, since the experience had enriched and inspired me deeply as a musician and educator. When Lisa introduced me to CSIC I immediately knew I wanted to get involved. I believed at the time, and still believe, that CSIC can make a huge impact in the lives of high school music students.

CSIC: Composers and Schools in Concert is an organization that connects professional composers and high school music programs to provide hands-on workshops, mentoring sessions, and school presentations. Were you involved in any music programs during high school? 

Luo: When I was in high school, I was a student at the Young Musicians Program at UC Berkeley. YMP is a program that allows kids from low income families to receive first class music education. In addition to weekly lessons and chamber music coaching throughout the year, every summer everyone attended a 7-week summer camp to study everything from theory, musicianship, ear training, choir, and ensemble playing, to conducting, composition, and more. At the time, all of the theory and musicianship teachers were UC Berkeley doctoral students either in composition or music theory, so my exposure to composers began there. One year at YMP, I took composition as an elective and composed my first piece for voice and piano.  I remember being intrigued at the composition concert where students performed each other’s pieces, and that it seemed very normal that young students composed. I believe that this experience made such an impression on me, that many years later it inspired me to create A4TY.

CSIC: What are the present and future goals of the program?

Luo: Our goal right now is to compile the most diverse and dynamic collection of workshops into our directory and to introduce these workshops to school districts nationwide. Our long-term goal is to continue to foster the relationship between school music teachers and composers and to bring more inspiring programming to students.

CSIC: What do you see as the primary benefit for the students in an apprentice-type, professional/student relationship and what does it provide that a teacher/student relationship cannot provide?

Luo: I think this is simply a matter of connecting the dots for the students. They are entitled to see where the knowledge they gain is going to take them. Teachers more often than not need to devote their time to reinforce knowledge they have imparted upon their students. That process alone, while crucial to effective learning, can take up all of the teacher’s time. The primary function of these workshops is to spark curiosity and provide students a glimpse of what they can do with the knowledge and skills they have learned.

CSIC: How can schools/teachers sign up for the Composer Workshops?

Luo: A workshop list is made available to all music teachers who inquire about our workshops through our website. This fall, we’re launching an online community and teachers will be able to peruse the workshop directory without having to inquire with us first.

CSIC: Do you have any advice for high students who are interested in pursuing a career in music?

Luo: To answer this question I will borrow from Michael Giacchino’s acceptance speech when he won the Academy Award for scoring the movie UP:

“I had teachers, I had colleagues, I had people that I work with, all through my life who always told me, ‘What you are doing is not a waste of time.’ I know there are kids out there that don’t have that support system so if you’re out there and you’re listening, listen to me: if you want to be creative, get out there and do it. It’s not a waste of time. Do it. ”