Key Composition Tenets

Key Tenets for Music-COMP


Music-COMP is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization dedicated to providing experiences in music composition for young composers through online mentoring, live performances, free composition resources, and professional development for teachers.

1. Composition is an essential element of a well-rounded curriculum (details)

2. Using notation software develops music literacy (details)

3. Begin notational composition with structured guidelines 

4. Reflect and critique frequently

5. Encourage revision

6. Promote personal composition for the teachers 

7. Provide opportunities for live performance of student work

8. Teachers as well as students should compose



1. Teachers in Music-Comp recognize composition as one part of a total music curriculum that includes a variety of activities: singing, playing instruments, listening and analyzing, improvising, and moving. Some combine composition with integrated projects involving other disciplines. The development of music literacy skills is key. High school students often combine theory with composition as one way of demonstrating this knowledge. Students are also encouraged to write compositions that explore their own creative voice. (top)

2.The use of notation software promotes music literacy for students who compose. We often consider literacy in language with the expectation that students need to be able to listen, speak, read and write. Expectations for developing a musically literate individual then include listening, singing or playing an instrument, reading musical notation, and composing. (top)

3. Teachers in the project begin notational composition activities most often with highly structured assignments. They don't begin asking students to "learn the software" but to use it to create a piece that supports the learning of concepts from the music class. These assignments have specified guidelines, but teachers are always willing to accept variations from students who have mastered the basic concepts or demonstrate more sophisticated skills. Over time and with the demonstration of more complex work, students develop their own voice and apply it to their composition. (top)

4. Perhaps the most powerful and essential part of the composition process as practiced in Music-Comp is the reflection and critique of work. This takes many varied paths: students share work often within their class for suggestions, compositions are posted online for comments by professional composer mentors, students work together in small groups in elementary and middle school and discuss their composition as it unfolds. The requirement to reflect on their work and describe their intent helps students articulate what they are trying to accomplish. Students develop their use of musical vocabulary to accurately communicate with others about their work. (top)

In the online process, students are expected to go another step beyond simply describing their work. They request specific feedback, detailing areas of the composition that they wonder about. When students receive comments, they learn to test out the suggestions and consider which ones will help them improve their piece beginning a revision process that often involves multiple revisions and further discussion. (top)

5. Composition itself is a process. Most masterpieces develop over time and with considerable revision. Young composers often consider the first music composition they create to be a “masterpiece.” While we want to encourage them in their writing, nonetheless, it's important to view the additional possibilities in a piece for improvement or expansion. (top)

6. The annual Summer Institute courses require teachers to explore personal composition. Many report they have never been asked to compose before and realize that they can assist students far better if they have been through the process themselves. Our teachers compose, reflect on their own work, critique the work of others, and revise their personal compositions. Many of these compositions have been performed by student ensembles, at family events, and by community or church performing groups. (top)

7. The "Opus Concerts" were conceived as a way to vitalize the composition process for students, taking it from cyber-space to the concert hall. Enthusiasm runs high for students during the Opus selection process. Additional mentor time is needed to respond to the many postings and multiple revisions of the student work. Composing for live performance gives specific purpose to composition assignments and encourages students to learn more about the instruments featured in the Opus concert: playability, instrument range, and specific characteristics of each instrument. (top)


For just a few dollars per month, you can help ensure students will be writing music with Music-COMP for years to come. With your support, students throughout Vermont will continue to see their music come to life!