When Words Create Music: The Spontaneous Art Song Workshop and Its Value in Teaching Improvisation

Amy Lynne Engelsdorfer

Improvisation exemplifies a valuable teaching tool in the music theory classroom. In addition to getting students out of their chairs and moving, improvisation activities allow students the opportunity to apply knowledge by experimenting in a musical context. Some students struggle more that others with improvisation, however, stating they feel they are either “doing it wrong,” or they simply don’t know what to do, and a few suggestions offered in the moment about how to improvise better are insufficient. The Spontaneous Art Song (SAS) workshop is a pilot workshop designed to help this body of students feel more confident with improvisation. As a result of the workshop, students are more confident improvising; consequently, they gain a deeper understanding of theoretical cÝoncepts when improvisation is used during instruction. In this article I show how the workshop benefits them, and speculate on its value as a pedagogical tool.