• International Music Navigator

Creating music - getting students out of their comfort zone.

Most of my IBDP students are quite confident creating music. The challenge is to cover all four Areas of Inquiry in their PRESENTING MUSIC portfolio. Especially AoI one, music for sociocultural and political expression can be a challenge for some of my students.


The new IBDP music curriculum provides great autonomy - as an educator I challenge myself and reflect in which way I can best introduce the students to a variety of music from a global context. How can I interest students in music, which is unfamiliar to the students and, when listening to it for the first time, often a challenge?


As I was lucky enough to have a short window of time where our students were back on campus before we were hit with the next lockdown, I decided to draw on the interest and previous knowledge of the students. Teaching in an international school has the advantage that my student body is most diverse.


My set up of the class was still dictated by the corona rules to keep distance, but for this exercise, it was fine.

The five continents were represented with the big papers on the floor. In the middle, I placed a selection of books and journals which gave ideas about a variety of different musical cultures. On the whiteboard I showed them my current project - google earth with a variety of YouTube links - a blog post will follow in this project at a later time.

Each student was given a pack of different coloured post its: If they felt familiar with a certain culture and felt that they had already expert knowledge on it, they wrote it on a green post it. Pink indicated an interest for that culture and they wanted to pursue this in one of their portfolios, orange showed an interest but not enough to research this topic right away.

Some great discussions can develop when discussing the different musical cultures in comparison to geographical/political areas. Students were surprised to find some of the music concentrated locally and some spreading of bigger areas. This became also a part of their research and nicely tied in their historic and geographical knowledge in their discussions.


This exercise allowed the students to gain a quick overview of the incredible variety of music in the world. It helped them find common interests, and to pair up experts with interested students.


What worked?

  • Students gained a quick, rough overview.

  • Students were able to share prior knowledge in an informal and inviting atmosphere. I also learned quite a bit more about my students.

  • Students loved talking to each other about new and exciting music - probably also due to the fact that they had not seen each other in 3D for a while.

  • It sparked the interest for music which is not on the student's radar and, so far, has inspired some interesting compositions.

What can be improved?

  • Even more time needs to be allocated to give the students an opportunity to listen to more pieces. Unfortunately, the following lesson was again a distance learning lesson.

  • I was able to bank on the enthusiasm of my students - they are a lovely and lively group. For a more passive group, this activity probably needs more guidance and mentoring.

The compositions my students are currently creating are inspired by

  • Austrian folk music

  • Classic Turkish music

  • Kalimba

  • Classic traditional Arabic music

  • Reggae

  • Country music

  • Traditional Argentinian tango

  • Irish music

Before the students started composing, they practiced their music analysis skills by dissecting one representative piece of the chosen culture. They identified the different musical elements and how they are used in this piece - creating a musical fingerprint. The results, documented in their music journal, then directly informed and influenced/shaped the compositions.