Improv Exchange

Welcome to the Improv Exchange, a new regular feature in Dalcroze Connections. In it, we’ll provide inspiration to help kickstart your own improvisations at home or in class. 

Composer Aaron Taylor

Our inaugural column features the work of Aaron Taylor, whom Publications Committee member and editor-extraordinaire Michelle Li met during the 2022 CMU Marta Sanchez Dalcroze Training Center workshop. Aaron is a Pittsburgh native and a high school music teacher at Perry High School, located in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the host of a podcast called “A Black Educator’s Truth.” He also composes music, DJs, and performs different genres of music around the city.

Smooth and Sunny

Go to your keyboard and play through “Smooth and Sunny.”

Notice how Taylor composed in a modal style. The first phrase uses two harmonies a third apart, and the second phrase uses two different harmonies also a third apart. Notably, Taylor did not use the V7 chord in this work. 

For your own improvisation idea: Play Taylor’s piece and then spin off with your own music, either using the same harmonic structure with a new melody, or perhaps realizing a new harmonic pattern based on two chords a third apart. Perhaps return to Taylor’s material to create a ternary or rondo form.

If you feel up to it, consider sharing your results with us, whether it’s a realized composition, an audio file of your playing, or an anecdote of how your students responded. 

This article was originally published in the Fall 2022 issue of Dalcroze Connections, Vol. 7 No. 1.

About Katie Couch

Katie Couch (BM, MME) first experienced Dalcroze education while studying piano performance at the University of Colorado-Boulder in the early 2000s. After returning home from a three-year stint teaching English in Shanghai, she began serious studies in Dalcroze work. Katie earned the Dalcroze Certificate (2013) and License (2015) from the Dalcroze School of the Rockies. During the 2016-17 school year, she studied at l’Institut Jaques-Dalcroze in Geneva, Switzerland, working towards the Diplôme Supérieur. Currently, Katie works along the Colorado Front Range as a Dalcroze teacher with classes that range in age and level from early childhood through adult enrichment, with several other children’s classes as well. She is on the faculty of the Dalcroze School of the Rockies where she trains future Dalcroze teachers online in improvisation, solfège, and pedagogy. Katie also volunteers for several committees of the Dalcroze Society of America. In her spare time, Katie enjoys raising her three daughters, expanding her piano repertoire, cooking, being outdoors, and listening to music.

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