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Piano Students as Composers: Stimulating a Creative Teaching and Learning Environment

This morning, as I foraged through piles of folders, I stumbled upon one of my articles that was published in the California Music Teacher (MTAC Magazine) in 1985. At the time, I had just released my music book, “Piano Duets and Solos by and for Children,” which included a lengthy introduction titled, “How to Help Children Compose.” My uncle, the late David Smiton, a gifted fine artist, provided the cover art work and added graphics/pics, but the piano student composers illustrated their own pieces.

In the interests of sharing ideas about creativity and composing in the piano studio, I have reprinted the Preface and some student produced musical selections alongside their artistic creations. My added accompaniments, indicated as “teacher” parts are included. You can see details of the composing process by the prompts inserted at the top (side) of various pages. I hope, above all, that you will enjoy the music and its creative development.

Please feel free to impart your own experiences with composing.


About David Smiton (book cover artist)

A graduate of the Parsons School of Design, David Smiton worked simultaneously as a commercial and fine artist. The highlights of his career reflected the refinement of his talents in both areas. As testimony to his artistic ability, he won the prestigious Grumbacher Award, and he published articles with his illustrations in the American Artist and the Artist’s Market.

While working in New York City as an advertising art director, he was commissioned to sketch events for the nationally televised trial of Lt. Calley. Other trial work followed including the highly publicized Clifford Irving and Jean Harris cases.

An example of David Smiton’s impeccable art work:

2 thoughts on “Piano Students as Composers: Stimulating a Creative Teaching and Learning Environment”

  1. Hi Shirley,
    Greetings from Texas. What a lovely article and tribute to your uncle, he was a very talented artist. This is rather random, but I think I may have a work of his which I purchased from a shop in Austin. I love the composition of a peace sign and footprints in the snow. Do you know if it may be a legitimate piece? It is dated 1972 and has a “Season’s Greetings from the Smitons” label on the back. How might I get pics of it to you for verification?


    1. My uncle did have a set of plates–one of which was a Chinese like doll..which I have here (These were sold across the country). One of these appears in another blog which I will locate. He also did a few TV trials…sketching the various witnesses, et al.


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