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Emotion in Music — Teaching Eclectic Styles and Improvisation

Emotion in Music — Teaching Eclectic Styles and Improvisation

Musical improvisation encourages individual expression and a deeper relationship with music. Teaching improvisation however, requires training. Research by Taylor and Georgia State University’s Martin Norgaard, uncovered a need for pre-service teacher training in the art of fostering improvisational skills and creativity. “The benefit of teaching improvisation in the classroom is that it provides the opportunity for students to develop the art of musical expression through articulation, phrasing and inflection” says Skip Taylor, Music Education faculty at the University of Georgia, Hugh Hodgson School of Music.

Their research found that students use improvisational techniques only about 40% of the time when performing concerts and less than 10% in festival performances. Taylor and Norgaard believe providing access to materials and workshops in pre-service training will give more teachers the confidence they need to teach improvisational techniques.

“Often you’ll see professional symphony players performing with emotion from the stage while reading the music. That same emotion is not always exhibited with young students until they’re provided the opportunity to explore personal expression in music. Once you foster their ability to play with emotion through the art of improvisation, the students will transfer that emotion into their concert music performance naturally.”

Taylor’s commitment to this topic extends beyond research. He and other music educators offer workshops, training music teachers on improvisational techniques and eclectic styles. The workshops are available at music educator conferences, like the American String Teachers Association, GMEA, and other state conferences. Taylor has also traveled the world offering similar workshops to educators in places such as Kenya, Kazakhstan and Ireland. The workshops are designed to give teachers an advantage by learning how to implement the techniques needed for students to develop stronger improvisational skills.

You can read Taylor and Norgaard’s research in the upcoming String Research Journal, Volume no. 7.  You can also learn from Skip Taylor in the online Master in Music Education program.