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Activating Diverse Musical Creativities: Teaching and Learning in Higher Music Education

reviewed by Carol Frierson-Campbell - April 05, 2017

coverTitle: Activating Diverse Musical Creativities: Teaching and Learning in Higher Music Education
Author(s): Pamela Burnard & Elizabeth Haddon (Eds.)
Publisher: Bloomsbury, London
ISBN: 1350000000, Pages: 312, Year: 2016
Search for book at Amazon.com

What are the creative practices and ways of knowing that could enable contemporary musicians to earn a living in the early twenty-first-century? How could institutions of higher learning adapt to facilitate and support these practices for music students who seek degrees? Addressing these questions is the basis for Pamela Burnard and Elizabeth Haddon’s edited volume Activating Diverse Musical Creativities: Teaching and Learning in Higher Music Education. Burnard’s (2012) concept of diverse musical creativities is the theoretical glue that binds this volume. Twenty-one authors and co-authors describe a wide variety of higher education approaches to fostering such creativities in students, curricula, and institutions across the text’s 14 chapters.

Burnard and Haddon begin the first part of the book, “Multiple Creativities and Entrepreneurship,” by bringing entrepreneurship, “a distinct type of creativity” (p. 4), into the creativity conversation. They suggest (following Bresler, 2013) that, “entrepreneurial creativity can act as a catalyst for encompassing an innovative and often experimental set of practices” (p. 4) that are needed for successful musicians to “experience and navigate a diversity of musical creativities to define successful career paths” (p. 4).

The second part, “Experiments in Learning,” comprises Chapter Two to Chapter Five. In Chapter Two, Bennett, Reid, and Petocz describe a survey they implemented to “see just what students thought about creativity” (p. 24). These music students’ survey responses align with the premise stated by the professor-authors that creativity is a bundle of person, process, and product. However, these music students consider creativity to be a critical professional disposition in contrast to the business students examined by Petocz, Reid, and Taylor (2009). The music students seem to see it “as what is done with or to their formal learning, rather than as a component of formal learning itself” (p. 31).

In the third chapter, Bennett describes how the popular music songwriting curriculum at Bath Spa University in the United Kingdom was built to identify, activate, and develop diverse creativities. The author shares decisions about entry qualifications, degree requirements for bachelor’s and master’s study, and curricular efforts to address the creativities necessary for successful songwriting (e.g., production, arranging, instrumental performance, vocal performance, and the song itself). His status as a U.K. National Teaching Fellow is much in evidence in this thorough and well thought out chapter.

How do popular music students interpret the analytical component of the curriculum with regard to the development of their own creativity? As described in Chapter Four, authors Weston and Byron implemented a survey to examine this question. The respondents demonstrated a definite pattern, namely many students felt that the analytical requirements in the second year of the program seemed to “kill the muse” (p. 63). However, by the third year, most were able to efficiently apply these learned analytical skills to their own creativity. Much of the chapter also has to do with suggesting semiotic analysis as a basis for popular music analysis courses.

In Chapter Five, Dobson explores interdisciplinary and collaborative creativity as a result of a voluntary extracurricular “CollabHub” implemented at a U.K. university. Projects spurred by the hub, such as stop-motion animation, radio jingles, and a music festival brought together university students from diverse disciplinary backgrounds. The author suggests that such an enterprise gives students “a kind of permission to play” (p. 78) while at the same time coming to know music in relation to other disciplines and technologies.

The five chapters in Part Three, “Experiments in Teaching,” share pedagogical efforts to activate diverse creativities through improvisation, composition, and community education partnerships. In Chapter Six, Miller describes how improvisation in the context of Latin American music “allows for the simultaneous acquisition of core musicianship skills, creative improvisational abilities, and contextual knowledge” (p. 99). This process combines musicianship with intercultural creativity. Chapter Seven, by Olthuis, describes the pedagogy of teaching spontaneous free improvisation without specific stylistic parameters, which is in contrast to Miller’s culturally specific method. Influenced by Nachmanovitch’s Free Play (1990), the course is a vehicle for developing “interdisciplinarity and musical leadership” (p. 124) through “improvisation, creative learning, and reflective practice” (p. 124).

Creative action is necessary for self-understanding. In turn, authors Helfter and Ilari believe that this is a key component of empathic creativity in Chapter Eight. They describe how their involvement as mentors in a university-community music education partnership led to the emergence of empathic creativity for the participating university students. The authors suggest that experiences linked to empathic creativity are necessary for creating “a dynamic environment in music teaching experiences” (p. 153) where “both mentors and students . . . ‘dig deep,’ take chances, risk, and ultimately attain great experiences and rewards” (pp. 153–154). In Chapter Nine, Australian authors Joubert and Schubert suggest a different kind of field component that they call “communal creativities in situ” (p. 172, emphasis in original). It encourages university music students to step “outside familiar tropes of what constitutes creativities” (p. 160). They suggest creating place-based courses where learners experience musical cultures in context rather than in a classroom. Western students might then adopt a more critical reflexivity that recognizes “the everyday creativity and resourcefulness required by local people” (p. 163). The authors invite readers to consider different perspectives on communal creativity as exhibited by participants in various UNESCO conferences in South Africa, Finland, the Cook Islands, Australia, and elsewhere.

In contrast to the other authors in this volume, Vasconcelos addresses university programs for contemporary Western art music composers in Chapter Ten. Implications derived from personal and published interviews of practicing composers or professors include the need to (a) balance “ambiguity, uncertainty, risk, and incomplete knowledge” (p. 178) while “situated between intuition, imagination, and rationality” (p. 178); (b) differentiate the kinds of knowledge the degree imparts; (c) respond to student needs “as advisor and instigator of perplexities and reflexivities” (p. 178); (d) develop compositional practices that spur creative tension between tradition and innovation; and (e) create “extended differentiated interdependencies . . . through which one can understand and manage the creative career” (p. 178).

In “Engaging Technologies,” the fourth and final part of the book, the authors discuss technological creativities in the recording arts, digital media, and ePortfolios. King begins Chapter Eleven by addressing the “lack of a clear understanding of creativity in the music studio” (p. 205). The development of musico-technological creativity (p. 209) “not only requires a scientific knowledge of the technical apparatus, but also needs to embrace the creative aspects of music making” (p. 205). He engages renowned Abbey Road music producer Craig Leon to add to the discussion of these issues. In the twelfth chapter, Kardos encourages readers to activate their own musico-technological creativities and those of their students. The author states that, “[t]his is the fun part: never before have the materials of music been so pliable, touchable, and easy to access” (p. 234). In many ways, her description summarizes the musico-technological creativity discussion by stating that,

‘[k]now-how’ and ‘know-what’ is being supplemented with know-where: the understanding of where to find knowledge (Siemens, 2005), giving rise to new kinds of learning, not always adequately catered for in our assessment methods. In equipping tomorrow's creative music professionals for art-making and industry, higher education [programs] should be promoting fluency in digital literacies, quality of execution, and enabling learners to develop the skills necessary to make technology bend to their ideas. (p. 224, emphasis in original)

Chapter Thirteen explores the results of curricular efforts to institute online ePortfolios in four Australian institutes of higher education that center on music, theater, and writing. Based on focus group interviews and surveys with student participants, authors Rowley, Bennett, and Dunbar-Hall query,

1. How students engaged with technologies to develop the persona/e they portrayed in their portfolios;

2. How students imaged themselves through engagement in the technologies;

3. Whether and how students developed career creativities through the engagement of ePortfolio technologies; and

4. How students referenced themselves as future professionals and creative workers when engaging with the technologies. (p. 245)

Their results suggest that students found the ePortfolios useful for planning, implementing, and reflecting on their own learning, especially regarding how they might present themselves after graduation.

In their concluding chapter, Haddon and Burnard confirm “the need to consider the development of a skill set enabling music students to engage creatively in portfolio careers” (p. 261) by revisiting entrepreneurialism, student development, agency, multiple personas, and self-knowledge. They also acknowledge the importance of community for managing the fragility inherent in all of these processes.

Activating Diverse Musical Creativities is a timely and well-intentioned volume that addresses the complex issue of musical creativities from a wide variety of curricular perspectives. I found the chapters related to popular music and technology to be particularly engaging and informative. However, I also found myself wishing for a slightly less academic approach. Although the title suggests action, most chapters are heavier on theory. I would have appreciated specific information about how students learned and used the creativities the authors described during their studies and after graduation. However, the editors and contributing authors in this volume have made important and thoughtful contributions to the discussion about activating multiple musical creativities in and through the academy.


Bresler, L. (2013). Academic intellectual entrepreneurs. In L. Book & D. Phillips (Eds.). Creativity and entrepreneurship: Changing currents in education and public life (pp. 18–26). Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.

Burnard, P. (2012). Musical creativities in practice. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Nachmanovitch, S. (1990). Free play: Improvisation in life and art. London, UK: Penguin.

Petocz, P., Reid A., & Taylor, P. (2009). Thinking outside the square: Business students’ conceptions of creativity. Creativity Research Journal, 21(4), 1–8.


Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. eLearn Space. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: April 05, 2017
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 21909, Date Accessed: 12/4/2021 9:14:26 PM

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About the Author
  • Carol Frierson-Campbell
    William Paterson University
    E-mail Author
    CAROL FRIERSON-CAMPBELL, Ph.D., associate professor of music, teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in instrumental music education and research and coordinates the music education program at William Paterson University. Her scholarly interests include music education in marginalized communities, instrumental music education, and research pedagogy. Previous projects include the co-authored textbook Inquiry in Music Education: Concepts and Methods for the Beginning Researcher (with Hildegard Froehlich), the edited 2-volume Teaching Music in the Urban Classroom, and articles in Music Education Research and Arts Education Policy Review. During the 2015-2016 school year she served as Scholar in Residence at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music in the occupied Palestinian Territories. Dr. F-C (as her students know her) also directs the Music After School project, providing music enrichment for children in Paterson, New Jersey.
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