The Process and Production of the Composition of a Musical Drama with Elementary Students


  • Rhonda McRorie Independent Scholar, Manitoba, Canada


he composition process is complex, and, oftentimes, it is assumed that young children do not have the knowledge, experience, and maturity to be engaged in this activity in a meaningful and productive manner. This paper seeks to identify, describe, and compare the components of the composing process in the creation of a musical drama by fourteen fifth- and sixth-grade students. The research study undertaken to analyze the process was guided by a number of research foci: the value of writing a musical drama with students with respect to the creative process, an examination of the creative process itself, the processes involved in playwriting and songwriting, and the resulting synthesis. The productive process involved brainstorming for story-writing and song-writing ideas, establishing the storyline and plot, crafting the character development, producing the improvised dialogue, and composing the songs. In this paper, the process will be delineated, along with an explanation of the data gathering techniques consistent with the design of descriptive studies, including the transcription and review of the videotapes of all the student-production sessions, the researcher’s and students’ journals, and student interviews conducted to assess their reaction to the process of writing a musical drama. The results of this exploratory study in playwriting and songwriting behaviors indicate that the phases of the composing process are consistent with Wallas’ four-stage model of the creative process. Pertinent examples to illustrate the techniques, products, and behaviors will be presented. The paper will conclude with drawing some comparisons of the creative process across the disciplines of drama and music. As an exploratory study, this project leaves many questions unanswered. There were many factors which influenced the success of the project, among them the time allotment, the size of the group, the ages of the students, and the gender of the students. Future research could involve assessing the students’ collaboration and its anticipated related effect on their affective, social, and emotional development.

Author Biography

Rhonda McRorie, Independent Scholar, Manitoba, Canada

Rhonda McRorie began her teaching career in Brandon, Manitoba, after receiving undergraduate degrees in teaching and music education at Brandon University. After accepting a teaching position in elementary music in the River East School Division in Winnipeg, she became involved with professional organizations, such as the Manitoba Choral Association, the Manitoba Music Educators’ Association, and the Manitoba Orff Chapter, as well as performance ensembles, such as the Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir, Faith and Life Choir, Manitoba Opera Chorus, Winnipeg Singers, and various church choirs. Early in her career, Rhonda composed and recorded two albums, Freedom in My Soul and Better Tomorrows. With a colleague, she staged Annie (1985), generating $10,000.00 for World Vision, and later co-produced Better Tomorrows (1988), an original musical based on a true story, generating $7,000.00 for the Children’s Cancer Fund. In 1981 Rhonda was invited to teach in the West Indies in summer programs. These exploits facilitated the composition of an original musical drama about Nevis’s history for their independence celebrations. In 1991, she took a two-year leave of absence to teach Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 12 music in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and produced Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat and Grease. In 1993, Rhonda resumed her teaching career in Winnipeg and completed her ME at the University of Manitoba, focusing on creativity and musical drama.