Fugett & WCU Collaborate, Create Music Composition Together

Fugett & WCU Collaborate, Create Music Composition Together

Matt Hill conducts his seventh grade chorus

Matthew Hill, a Choral Music Teacher at Fugett Middle School, had an idea that he knew he had to pursue.

Hill wanted to create an opportunity for students and a young composer to work together to prepare a musical composition and perform it in front of a live audience. He connected with Dr. Robert Maggio, Chairperson of the Music Theory and Composition Department at West Chester University, and learned his idea could become reality – and that, it quickly did. Hill was introduced to David Logue, a music education and music composition major, and the two began to develop the idea together.

Logue visited Hill’s seventh grade chorus class last fall, where he described his musical background, detailed the composition process, brainstormed a theme for the piece, and discussed possible lyrics. Hill and Logue knew that developing the lyrics would be a complex process, but it would help make the piece truly unique and exclusive to the class. In order to prepare the lyrics, Hill asked his students to respond to one question in their journals: what do you want to do and become in the future? Hill collected their responses, and provided them to Logue, who immediately got to work on preparing the associated lyrics. “I categorized and found underlying concepts from all of their responses,” said Logue. “I started writing lyrics directly on the paper I used to compile all of their responses – their responses to the questions went almost verbatim into the lyrics.” The students appreciated the opportunity to have their individual voices heard through the lyrics they would perform. “I liked that our suggestions were incorporated into the song,” said Anna Delaney, one of Hill’s choral students. “It made the piece feel personal.”

David Logue speaks to Fugett Middle School's seventh grade classLogue then wrote music around the lyrics, and presented the piece to Hill so his students could practice it in preparation for the performance. “The rehearsal process was challenging for the students,” said Hill. “It was unlike anything they had ever done before, as there were no repeated sections, there were challenging harmonies, and there were more independent vocal lines.” However, the seventh graders did not give up – they learned, practiced, and grew, and ultimately were prepared to perform the piece, which they did in front of a large audience filled with proud family members and friends. Logue joined the students once again for the performance, this time to accompany them on piano. “The performance was a high point,” said Logue. “It's the pinnacle of work done by a composer, conductor, and all of the musicians, and where pieces always come alive.”

Students not only enjoyed the special experience, but found significant value in it as well. “Having the opportunity to sing a piece written solely for this year’s seventh grade chorus was a unique experience,” added Delaney. “I feel like this was a beneficial experience because it introduced me to a different genre of music and the song-writing process, and also exposed me to a potential college major.”

Hill is hoping the idea catches on with his fellow teachers across the West Chester Area School District. “I’m encouraging my colleagues to take on similar projects, and personally hope it can become a yearly activity,” said Hill. “This is such an important and teachable experience, and it’s mutually beneficial to the composer and students alike.”

Stay tuned – there are sure to be more collaborations in the future!

For more information, please contact Ms. Tracey Dukert, Digital Communications Coordinator, at 484-266-1170 or tdukert@wcasd.net.