Paul Siskind siskinpa at potsdam.edu
Wed Mar 25 13:32:51 PDT 2009

Hi David:  Your questions conflate a number of separate issues, which  
could take many pages to unpack.  Here's some brief responses....

> My original "I wonder" thought was whether composition teachers are  
> trained in pedagogy regarding the music education sense of the word.

I'm not sure that you mean by "the music education sense of the  
word."  Most composers don't begin formal studies in composition  
until college (except for a few who are fortunate to have stumbled  
upon a teacher earlier in their training).  Most college teachers of  
music in any aspect of the field (except for music education) don't  
have training in pedagogy in the "music education sense of the word."

> Are teaching techniques instilled by composition teachers to future  
> teachers of composition?

This question begs a larger issue:  Most college-level studio  
teachers who train future performers (who will in turn become future  
studio teachers) don't specifically teach performance pedagogy within  
the context of their studio lessons.  Composition lessons are  
analogous to performance studio lessons in this regard.  The primary  
purpose of composition lessons isn't to teach pedagogy; it's to teach  
craft and creativity.  One can glean much about pedagogy from one's  
own teachers along the way, but performance and/or composition  
lessons rarely focus on pedagogy.

> Can they communicate the best ways to teach someone how to write a  
> fugue?

What does this have to do with composition pedagogy?  It's more  
relevant to a course in counterpoint.  Of course, traditional tonal  
compositional techniques do play some role in the training of  
composers, but it's just one small portion of their training.   
There's a wide spectrum of beliefs about the relationship between  
traditional theory and learning how to compose, with a large  
percentage of composers seeing little direct relationship between the  

> What are some creative ways to teach orchestration so composers can  
> learn to associate different instruments/families with different  
> timbres.

Most any music school has courses in Orchestration.  Of course, many  
composers learn this own their own, by score study and listening.

> In my opinion, more colleges need to include some form of  
> composition pedagogy in their curricula.

I teach at the Crane School of Music, one of the first and largest  
music educator training programs in the country.  I am also on our  
state-wide music education committee for composition programs in our  
public schools.  So, even though I have no background (or degrees) in  
music education per se (i.e. all of my majors were in composition/ 
theory), I have a pretty good understanding of the current interest  
in teaching composition in public school curricula.

My sense is that the whole purpose of including composition in music  
education in the public schools (and, by extension, in college core  
curricula) is NOT that we're trying to train more people to be  
composers.  Rather, studying composition is a way to develop better  
understanding of music in general through application, as well as  
creative problem solving, unlocking one's creative potential, etc.   
So, while you're correct that more college programs for music  
educators need to include more training of composition pedagogy in  
their music ed programs, it's a different approach to composition  
pedagogy (with different end goals) than the type of pedagogy one  
might need if one was planning to teach college-level composition  
students who want to become professional composers.

> 1. Who is responsible for teaching composers to teach composition-- 
> comp professors or music ed professors?  Comp professors can  
> rightfully claim that it's their area of expertise.  Music ed  
> professors are trained to help future teachers learn how to teach.   
> Does that include composition teachers?  Or, could it be a hybrid  
> of both...a collaboration?

See my responses above.  The same questions/distinctions apply to  
music performance studios, not just composition.  Should class piano  
(functional keyboard) be taught by the same people who teach piano  
studio for piano majors?  Should music ed professors who teach in the  
band track be giving the clarinet studio lessons to performance  
majors?   Why should composition studio be considered any differently?

> 2. Who should take this course--theory/comp majors and/or music ed  
> majors?

See my response above.

I hope that this answers some of your questions, and begins to unpack  
some of the issues that you conflated.


Dr. Paul A. Siskind 								Home:
Professor of Composition and Theory 				Sweet Child Music
The Crane School of Music, SUNY-Potsdam 		69 N. Main Street
Potsdam, NY  13676 								Norwood, NY  13668
(315) 267-3241 									(315) 353-2389

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