Teaching Musical Creativity: A practical guide for music directors


by Benjamin Taylor and Joseph Sowa

(23 pages)

This is an eBook for digital download.

Creativity and collaboration in the classroom is easier and more fun than you might think. The creative exercises and improvisational games collected in this book were designed to help students of all abilities feel comfortable in improvising and creating new music. They have been road tested by the Music Creators Academy and are now being used as a resource by band, choir, and orchestra directors with great success.


The creative exercises and improvisational games collected in this book were designed to help students of all abilities feel comfortable creating new music.  They have been road tested as part of the Music Creators Academy, a virtual summer music experience founded in 2020 to provide middle and high school students the opportunity to continue making music during the COVID-19 pandemic. For two weeks at the end of July, students collaborated in small and large groups to create new works for virtual ensembles. Though some of the students at the academy had previous improvisation and composition experience, many of them did not. The resultant final concert was performed live on Zoom and featured seven world premieres composed by students and faculty.  The feedback from parents, students, and educators has been overwhelmingly positive. They love that we have taken all the scariness out of composing!
Whether your classroom is virtual or in-person, these exercises can be successfully used with student groups of all sizes and experience levels. They can lead to your students creating their own pieces to perform, or they can simply be used to teach musical skills and concepts. We believe in the power of creative music making to foster collaboration and to instill camaraderie and community. We are excited for you and your students to gain musical insights and make memories through the process of inventing new music together.


Benjamin Taylor

Joseph Sowa

About the Authors

Benjamin Dean Taylor is a composer of contemporary concert music. His energetic, adventurous music provides a uniquely refreshing sonic experience for performers and audiences alike. Trained as a trumpet player and pianist, he performs with and writes music for a variety of chamber ensembles, jazz combos and big bands, wind bands, orchestras, and choirs. As a sought-after composer for wind band,Taylor has been commissioned by over 100 band directors of players at all educational levels.  He received his doctorate degree from Indiana University and currently resides in Bloomington, Indiana with his wife and six children.

Whether it’s cartooning, linguistics, natural history, and pop culture, Joseph Sowa embraces diverse influences to create music of detailed textures and vivid colors that speaks to mind, body, and heart. His music has been performed by students, professionals, and amateurs alike, including groups such as Collage New Music, Ensemble Dal Niente, the Genesis Chamber Singers, the Ludovico Ensemble, the PRISM Quartet, and middle and high schools across North America. He has received awards from ASCAP, the American Prize, and the Barlow Endowment and holds a PhD in Music Composition and Theory from Brandeis University.


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