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

Rhonda McRorie


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 researchers 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.

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