Introducing Compose Yourself!

I have been very lucky throughout my life, that I have always had teachers, both instrumental and school teachers, who encouraged me to both improvise and compose. I started making up short tunes by myself as soon as I had my first keyboard, and I was lucky that my first piano teacher helped me to start to write them down. My love of composing continued throughout my school years and beyond. Over 30 years since I started writing down those short tunes, I now have over 100 pieces published around the world. But, I would never have achieved that without the encouragement of others.

Compose Yourself is a new initiative from Lindsey Berwin and Alison Mathews which also seeks to encourage students of all ages to explore the creative possibilities of composition. Whilst I’m not involved directly as a composer, many other well-known names feature. I am grateful to Alison for writing this guest blog post which I’m pleased to be able to share with you.

Compose Yourself!

Compose Yourself! is a new and exciting online piano composition festival developed by myself and Lindsey Berwin to reflect our passion for encouraging creativity in students from an early age. Our teaching experience has taught us how beneficial composing can be, and in a variety of different ways. For some students it provides a means of developing self-confidence in a way that playing never has, for others a means of self-expression. Most importantly it brings together different aspects of musical learning for all students. Composing can lead to a deeper understanding of music for students at all levels and ages in a creative way.

Introducing Compose Yourself!

Lindsey and I would regularly enter our pupils for the annual European Piano Teachers’ Association Composers Competition. It gave our pupils a goal, a sense of achievement and the opportunity to receive constructive feedback. When this event ended a gap was left, so we decided we would like to fill it with a similar event, but one that was online, open to all pianists resident in the UK and with both competitive and non-competitive categories. We spent some time developing our ideas and held a successful trial event last year with a small group of colleagues and their pupils.

We are fortunate to have been given so much support in setting up the event, with generous sponsorship from EPTA and prizes of music being donated by publishers such as Faber, Trinity College London and Editions Musica Ferrum. One particularly exciting aspect of the festival is the involvement of a wonderful group of leading contemporary composers. All entrants will receive a piece of music specially written by one of these composers to suit the entrants performance level. Our hope is that this will inspire pupils to continue composing as it extends the idea of sharing music – from published composer to student.

Compose Yourself! composers

Although the immediate aim of the festival is to provide a goal for students and a way to share their music, we would like to achieve more than that. We want to encourage and support teachers, especially those who feel less confident or have little experience in introducing composition into lessons. To enable this, we are offering resources and guidance in the form of free printable activity sheets, an animation ideal for a sound track project and a growing list of books and articles. These resources are created from our direct experience of teaching composition – they are tried and tested! These are all available from our website.

Alison Mathews

Find out more…

You can find out more about Compose Yourself on their website, their Facebook page and on Twitter.

Compose Yourself! logo

Who’s behind Compose Yourself

Lindsey Berwin grew up in Cardiff and Leeds, and then spent four years studying at The Royal Academy of Music. After a brief period of working as a classroom music teacher, she decided to refocus on piano teaching. Since then she has followed this path, together with that of performing, amassing some thirty five years of experience. In 2002, Lindsey became employed by Queen Elizabeth Grammar School and Wakefield Girls’ High School, where she continues to have a busy and thriving teaching practice.

Lindsey has become well-known for her innovative approaches to improving key skills whilst maintaining enjoyment for her students. She is the composer of FunKey!, a series of books designed to improve piano students’ sight reading skills using jazz based material, and Jazz Keys, its counterpart for the flute. In 2017 her suite of piano pieces entitled All The Fun Of The Fair, suitable for intermediate and advanced students, was published. This was followed in 2018 by a set of advanced pieces entitled Vignettes, and then by Jazzagility!, a series of graded piano technique books in the jazz idiom.

Alison Mathews is a pianist, composer and teacher with a thriving private teaching practice in Surrey. After graduating from the Royal College of Music, she went on to complete a masters degree at Surrey University with the philosophy of music at the heart of her studies.

Alison’s interest in composition grew out of a desire to provide her students with imaginative music to play that would give them the opportunity to explore the full range and sonority of the piano whilst exploring different techniques. Her includes a varied portfolio of educational books, such as Doodles 1 and 2 and Treasure Trove, as well as commissions from ABRSM, Trinity College London and Breitkopf & Härtel. Alison has also had works included in the exam syllabi for ABRSM and RIAM and has contributed to several anthologies.

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Introducing Compose Yourself!