SongPump: Developing a Composing Pedagogy in Finnish Schools Through Collaboration Between Professional Songwriters and Music Teachers

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This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge in Musician-Teacher Collaborations: Altering the Chordon on 9 January 2018, available online:

Title: SongPump: Developing a Composing Pedagogy in Finnish Schools Through Collaboration Between Professional Songwriters and Music Teachers
Author: Partti, Heidi; Väkevä, Lauri
Date: 2018
Abstract: Based on recent research reports, one could argue that creative music making activities have not established a central role in Finnish music classrooms. According to the National Assessment of Learning Outcomes in Music (Juntunen 2011), composing is only occasionally taught in Finnish basic education (Grades 1–9). In addition, a recent nationwide survey indicates that as much as three out of four music teachers feel that they have not been equipped with adequate tools and skills for teaching composing during their studies (Partti 2016).2 Facilitating group-based composing and collaborative creativity in heterogeneous classrooms is perceived as especially challenging. Yet, previous curriculum documents (e.g. Finnish National Board of Education 1970, 2004), as well as the recently introduced National Core Curriculum for Basic Education (Finnish National Board of Education 2014), indicate that the creative production of music should be taught to all pupils at all grades. The most recent core curriculum further emphasizes creative collaboration as a central learning approach in music, as well as in other school subjects (ibid.). In this chapter, we examine questions related to teaching creative music making in schools. What could be the role of a professional composer or songwriter in music education? What would the introduction of such professionals into the classrooms require from the teachers? We examine these questions through the case of a recent developmental project that brought professional composers into music classrooms in Finnish comprehensive and upper secondary schools. The project, called BiisiPumppu [SongPump], was organized by the Finnish Composers’ Copyright Society (Teosto) during the academic year of 2013–14. In the project, teachers collaborated with professional songwriters, lyricists, musicians, and music producers to instruct pupils in how to create their own pieces of music.3 The BiisiPumppu project thus exemplifies collaborative efforts between teachers, composers, and schools that may open new avenues for more participatory music education in a variety of musical-aesthetic contexts. Based on a case study conducted by the first author of this chapter, we will discuss themes pertaining to how the project succeeded, how the stakeholders benefited from the effort, and what kinds of development ideas emerged in terms of music pedagogy. We will also address some critical aspects of the project, suggesting ways in which similar initiatives can better take into account the specific characteristics of school music in the future.
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