Collaborative Composing

by Cecilia Roudabush Director of Education

Collaborative composing for band, orchestra or choir is something that would seem unfathomable to me if it weren’t for the City Symphonies work of MIT Opera of the Future Professor, Tod Machover. Hopefully, you’ve seen Hyperscore and understand the beauty of its simple design for the individual composer. However, if you are a visionary like Machover, all individuals who lead a musical ensemble would be clamoring to have their musicians compose together with Hyperscore, or as an arrangement of individual’s motives. Following that, the leaders would print the work in traditional notation using the export feature and, finally, perform their work for an adoring audience. What a challenge, and amazing experience, that could be!

If you took piano lessons, band, orchestra and/or choir like I did throughout my school years and into college, it was rare to play contemporary and diverse original works of music. As we learned in a July 2022 NPR online article featuring Dr. Rocque Diaz, Ms. Daria Adams and GSHARP, we should be playing original music from every culture and genre in addition to the Classics. I came across this 2014 Reddit comment thread when searching for a discussion on the benefit of playing the Classics of every genre and era as compared to composing and/or playing original work.

Stick with the Classics? Write original works? Collaboratively Compose?

Under the comment title below, it says “Posted by u/zamboniman06 8 years ago”

“Don’t get me wrong, I like to learn songs whether its tab or someone teaching or my earz (sic), but I get such a thrill creating a tune that it makes me [happy?] more often writing songs than learning songs… if that makes sense. EDIT: discuss.” Astoundingly, this one simple comment from u/zamboniman06 brought a long discussion thread of 135 comments.

To argue the benefit of learning music that’s already been created, JeeBusCrunk wrote, that “Great songwriters like Billy Joel, Elton John, and Stevie Wonder think the Beatles are the most important thing that ever happened to pop music (I tend to agree), and I believe you’re doing a great disservice to yourself as a musician if you don’t truly understand why they feel this way (even if you disagree)”. Anonymous, however, simply stated the opposite point with the simple words, “I don’t really create the songs I write, I hear them”. Sounds like something John, Paul, Ringo, George and Wolfgang would have said! Similarly, many of my students have said that when they use Hyperscore they never really know what they’re going to do until they start composing and like what they’re hearing!

The joy of an original composition

Probably, my favorite Reddit thread commenter was alividlife. This person stated Hyperscore’s philosophy to a T:

“…I’ve noticed in writing my own material, as soon as I take it seriously, and try and write something “awesome”, it’s a struggle of frustration. What has been proving a better way, is to almost be joyful…

It’s just a matter of getting the basic idea.
A Hook of some sort.
A chorus.
Then maybe a bridge.

…Keep it simple, and as it becomes refined, work on creating each part as a breathing whole. But ideally stick to the real simple fundamentals of harmony, and simple melody…I think a huge issue with creation in general, all art forms, is that inner-critic…Enjoy yourself, and your audience will appreciate you for it.”

Raise your hand for collaborative composing!

New Harmony Line is looking to emulate the work of Professor Machover with a visionary ensemble leader who is interested in collaborative composing, guiding their musicians to create and perform an original work. Realistically, in today’s work world I wouldn’t know a single ensemble leader who would have time to run the unit then arrange the resulting piece. Thus, we are looking for freelance arrangers as well. Raise your hand if you are the visionary! Raise your hand if you are the arranger of that future collaborative piece! Then contact me,, and we’ll write about your work in the New Harmony Line News blogs to come!


Guiding Students to Compose a Mystery for You?

Cecilia Roudabush Director of Education

Guiding students to compose original compositions is something I did not do until Year 17 out of 32 years of teaching. Assuredly, I was intimidated by the blank page I was presenting them with. Honestly, I had written very little music myself. Definitely, I thought they needed to know theory in order to compose! The Hyperscore workshop I attended in 2007 with Professor Tod Machover, who leads the M.I.T. Opera of the Future Group, changed my whole outlook on composing with students!

Hyperscore–guiding students to compose

Behind the simple Hyperscore user interface were all the rules of Western harmony. All my students had to do was put in a note and decide to make it longer or shorter. Do I want the notes higher or lower? What instrument do I play the notes with? What notes or phrases do I pair? How fast or slow should my work move and how loud or soft should it play? Guiding students to compose was so simple with a program that let them decide where to go with a little check-in here or there from me! Most importantly, was there time for individual conferences? Sure! Everybody’s busy leaving me time to move around the room–check.

Hyperscore–sophisticated results

If you’ve been reading my blogs at all, you know that I take great pride in the work my students produce, just as so many of them do for themselves. In 2007, three of my students earned the opportunity to have their works played by the Ying Quartet on the stage of Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City, Iowa after I attended Professor Machover’s workshop. I still enjoy Sam’s “Letting Off Some Steam” in my “Hyperscore Forever Favorites” file. I’ve blogged about “Untitled by Randalette” and “Pew Pew Pew” written by students in the early 2000’s that I consider to be classic examples of student creativity.

Recently, I blogged about the long-term music substitute gig that resulted in 32 songs being added to our YouTube Channel. “Kings and Queens” is nearly famous with 73 views–by a 2nd grader! “Tools” is just as adorable. Amazingly, a kindergartner is showing us their quarter note alternating steady beat and their experimentation with note values in the rhythm window. We have an ESL teacher starting a unit in October with her 3 year olds. Won’t that be fun to listen to?! Pre K-12–anyone can compose!

If you find guiding students to compose to be a mystery, please choose our team to help you discover Hyperscore. Will we see you on September 26th? New Harmony Line hopes so!


Celebrating Teachers

Cecilia Roudabush Director of Education and General and Adaptive Music Teacher for 32 years in the Iowa City School District

Celebrating teachers who are returning for the 2022-2023 school year now, and those who already have weeks under their belt, is a joy for us at New Harmony Line! Many of the teachers we are in contact with enjoyed a little bit of summer time to reconnect with family and friends, travel and organize that garage but were right back on the websites looking for quality activities to engage their students with long before the school year started. Hopefully, this is the year that COVID takes a backseat to singing, dancing, playing instruments, listening to new and well-loved music, and students creating their own!

Recognizing how far we’ve come

Tod Machover works with a student who is composing with Hyperscore at the whiteboard in a classroom in Armenia
MIT Professor Tod Machover and (then) doctoral student Peter Torpey work with a student who is composing with Hyperscore in Armenia in 2012.

Who would have imagined that this event in Armenia, held 10 short years ago, would further the mission of Hyperscore becoming a web-based music composition tool for students all over the world? We are celebrating teachers like Professor Tod Machover who inspires students every year at the M.I.T. Media Lab where Hyperscore was created. Accordingly, we celebrate the contributions of his students Mary Farbood, Egon Pasztor, Kevin Jennings and Peter Torpey in creating, designing and improving the simple to use, yet musically complex, Hyperscore. New Harmony Line is thankful for its rich, historical foundation which started, of course, with creative students in a classroom!

Celebrating teachers who led the Beta pilot

New Harmony Line could not have launched the web-based Hyperscore with MusicFirst in May, 2022 were it not for the 17 teachers who tested our tool in their classrooms. We wish the best new school year to national and international music teachers Mike, Kylie, Pier, Dirk, our 3 Rebecca’s, Frederico, Diane, Elisabeth, Debra, Jaclyn, Caroll, Odysseas and Jonathan (who found us at TMEA in February and never looked back!). I can’t wait to write a blog about our Speech Language Pathologist, Lisa, who is a musician herself and led her Students with Autism to write their yearly opera using Hyperscore during our pilot! Special thanks to Jenn for sharing her music room with me for an informal study on the Social/Emotional Learning states of 3rd grade students learning Hyperscore (exciting data coming soon!).

Every teacher returning to the classroom deserves thanks and recognition for the work they do to foster student joy for learning. New Harmony Line wishes you a wonderful 2022-2023 school year!

Students manipulate the handheld electronic devices that will be used to make music for the Toy Symphony
2020 Toy Symphony Workshop

Play the Rainbow!

Cecilia Roudabush, Director of Education


Have you ever had a chance to play the rainbow? Rainbow-colored instruments have been around for years, none more popular these past few years than Boomwhackers. If you didn’t already know, Iowa native Craig Ramsell, a classical guitarist with a B.S. and M.S. in Management from M.I.T., created the plastic tubes that have become legendary in music rooms across the world. When I was a long-term general music substitute teacher this past May, 2022, we couldn’t keep ourselves from “talking about Bruno” and playing along with the fabulous video from Swick’s Classroom on YouTube!

Traditional or block note head

Whether you are using 8-note diatonic handbells, an outdoor Cavatina or Boomwhackers, New Harmony Line wanted you to have the opportunity to guide students to compose using the colors of the rainbow. With this in mind, CTO Peter created a super-fun Setting that features rainbow-colored lines. You can use the traditional note head or the block note head, which I prefer visually for the colored lines. Try out both settings with your students and let us know your favorite!

Chording accompaniments

When you compose with the rainbow setting, you can easily create melodies. However, don’t forget one of the best features of rainbow-colored instruments which is chording! This video features the chordal accompaniment for the chorus of “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” from the movie “Encanto” using the block note head:

We hope you will enjoy this new feature. We’d love to hear from you if you, or your class, writes a “play the rainbow” song!


Composing in the music room–we make it easy with Hyperscore!

Cecilia Roudabush, Director of Education

Student composers in music class? Have you pictured that for ALL of your students? Writing actual melodies and rhythms and blending them together to form harmonies? What if they could add dynamics, create form and choose tone color? Previously, before I went to my first Hyperscore workshop in 2007, I would never have dreamed there was a program out there that could let my students compose a piece of music that was uniquely their own with little to no knowledge of music theory.

What do students bring to your music room?

Every student that walks in your music room brings in their own unique voice and creativity. Accordingly, what you accomplish in lessons and activities depends on their ability and willingness to share their skills and try out new ideas. Be that as it may, you have the opportunity to expand their skills by presenting composition as a way to learn music content and theory. Another methodology is to “invert the pedagogy” which allows their creativity to guide your presentation of concepts.

What can we give you to help guide student composers?

The following video will hopefully convince you to give composition a try in your classroom this year while proving that Hyperscore is a unique and easy way to accomplish that goal:

Yes! Student composers can be in YOUR music room, and Hyperscore makes it EASY!

These composition guide videos will be linked to from the free Resources for Educators found on our website. Additionally, you will find other supports with our 1) Tool Tips and the 2) Rhythm, Melody, Harmony and Dynamics and Form and Tone Color Modules loaded on our Resources page. However, if you can’t find an answer to a question or you need a lesson idea, contact me at:

We are here to help you guide your student composers in 2022-2023 and beyond!

News Resources

Hyperscore Office Hours

Cecilia Roudabush, Director of Education

Hyperscore Office Hours will be the newest support offering from our team at New Harmony Line! To best serve you, we will meet the first Tuesday of every month: 7:30 ET, 6:30 CT, 5:30 MT and 4:30 PT. Register on our webpage by clicking on the Office Hours prompt on the home page top toolbar,

or use the link below.

Meet with any, or all, of our staff

Executive Director June Kinoshita is our impassioned visionary. She brought Hyperscore back through Kickstarter, Active Campaign and private donors so that everyone in the world with access to a device and the internet could make music. Chief Technology Officer Peter Torpey used Hyperscore before he ever came to the MIT Media Lab and became the wizard behind the curtain. Peter implements updates and improvements, moving the software to the Web while also guiding the construction of the Educator Version.

Additionally, Communications Director Nora Lawrence writes our newsletters, communicates with subscribers and champions for clear messages to everyone who loves, or will love, Hyperscore. As Director of Education, I got to use my passion for, and knowledge of, 15 years of Hyperscore in the classroom to guide the web-based Beta pilot. Currently, I assist teachers, write National Core Arts Standards curriculum, suggest ideas to Peter, sing the praises of Hyperscore on social media and assist June in letting the world know it’s out there at Conventions.

How may we assist you?

We intend to focus on “inverted pedagogy” in our September presentation. Our October meeting will feature an informal study done with a local music teacher and the analyst of the resulting data. Last week, in the August Office Hours, I worked with a former student teacher. She will be implementing Hyperscore across her K-8 classes to build a spiral curriculum base for the National Core Arts Standards lessons I am writing. We will be posting these on our Resources for Educators page and hope to see them in our MusicFirst Hyperscore Classroom.

By all means, please let me know what you would like to discuss in future Hyperscore Office Hours. We will start with any general questions at the beginning of the hour if you are unable to stay for the discussions portion. Consider joining our Facebook discussion page, “Teaching Hyperscore: Let’s Discuss” to keep the conversation going! Happy new school year and hope to see you at Office Hours.


Music Technology: Teach Composition Using Hyperscore!

Cecilia Roudabush, Director of Education

Virtual Summer Conference 2022

Music Technology was the topic of choice for our submission to the New Jersey Music Educators Association (NJMEA). The sessions were held Wednesday, July 27th and Thursday, July 28th in conjunction with MusicFirst. New Harmony Line submitted a pre-recorded session, “Hyperscore: A New Way to Teach Music Composition Using Technology”. Attendees received handouts with all of the resources linked and a free MusicFirst trial version of Hyperscore to go in the Swag Bag.

Presenting inverted pedagogy (compose first then teach the concept) was the newest challenge in the half hour presentation. I will keep practicing that wonderful pedalogical idea, but I think it went well and teachers will definitely want to try out the methodology. “Kings and Queens” took another starring run as the student example of what a 2nd grader can accomplish with time in the music room to be creative. Hopefully, conference participants were inspired to start or rejuvenate their composition unit!

Happy new school year!

What an excellent way to get teachers across America excited to get back into the music room and provide music technology outlets for student creativity in the coming school year! Thank you NJMEA and MusicFirst. May it be the first of many opportunities to share Hyperscore with music teachers guiding their students to compose this year and beyond!

This image features head shots of the two main presenters in the summer conference session, Amelia Nagoski and Denise Gagne.
Summer 2022 Conference Virtual Session
This image lists the conference session titles and who is presenting.

Win for the Week for Student Composers!

Cecilia Roudabush, Director of Education

F2F Foundation Music Summer Camp

Win for the week? Yes! New Harmony Line successfully completed our first youth cross-country camp Hyperscore lesson with Vel Lewis’s F2F (Faith to Form) Foundation in Houston, Texas on Wednesday, July 20th, 2022. CTO Peter and I were able to Zoom with Vel and the camp attendees, presenting the elements of music using Dr. Jennings “inverted pedagogy” of composing first then exploring the concept. Because Mr. Lewis was teaching theory at the camp, we presented numerous concepts including relativity to middle C and scales in the melody sketch window grid, rhythmic values and timbre in the rhythm sketch window and combining intervals into chords and creating form in the harmony sketch window. I especially appreciated the visual that Peter created featuring the piece “Take A Look” in Hyperscore as well as in printed notation.

We Got By With a Little Help From Our Friends

We would like to thank Megan LeMaster at the Harris County Public Library Administrative Offices in Houston, Texas for loaning us enough Chromebooks for every camper to have a device to compose with during the session. Special thanks to John Harbaugh, Branch Manager, for facilitating the handover and return with Vel’s team through the West University Branch. It took a village!

“Take a Look” in Hyperscore notation
pg. 1 in Standard Notation

Anyone. Everyone!

Cecilia Roudabush, Director of Education

Meet Dr. Roque Diaz, Ms. Daria Adams and GSHARP

While researching a topic last week, I followed a link to an inspiring article from Dr. Roque Diaz, the Senior Director of (DEI) Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Arts and Culture Consultant at the MacPhail Center for Music in Minneapolis. The center cultivates “an inclusive community where all people and music styles are welcome.” Classic fM Digital Radio’s article features the comments of Dr. Diaz, Daria Adams, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra violinist, and Grammy Award-winning musician GSHARP as they discuss the changes in how/where/whose music is being performed in the Twin Cities as a result of discussions triggered by the murder of George Floyd. 

GSHARP said “…making music has always been about using your emotion to talk about something that’s bigger than…” just being entertained. Why not lower the ticket price so anyone can attend the concerts?  Why not feature under-represented Black, Hispanic, LGBTQ+ and female composers?  Why not have the orchestra play in restaurants and churches in the community? What exciting ideas for anyone and everyone! The article is billed as a 9-minute read, but Dr. Diaz, Ms. Adams and GSHARP’s words will have long-lasting impact on, and support our, continuing mission regarding who enjoys and makes music:

If reading this article inspires you, it’s important to take the time to click this link from the article 9 Black composers who changed the course of classical music history and watch the YouTube video below featuring violinist Randall Goosby sharing information on four Black composers everyone should know. I was thrilled to see that I knew some of them yet dismayed that, even after a 32-year career teaching music, I did not know them all. Like the interviewees in the article suggest, we can all do more.  Toward that ideal, New Harmony Line is hosting our first camp presentation July 20th with Vel Lewis’ F2F (Faith 2 Form) Foundation for at-risk youth in the Houston area. We are lowering the barriers for the camp attendees by making composition accessible for children with a free subscription to Hyperscore and training on how to compose.  May it be the first of many such empowering opportunities!


Inverting the Pedagogy: the Hyperscore Difference

To utilize Hyperscore’s full potential, Dr. Kevin Jennings of Dublin, Ireland, urges music educators to “invert the pedagogy” when it comes to introducing children to composition. Watch:

Inverting the pedagogy means allowing student composers to create purposefully first, then discussing the musical rudiments present in their creative work afterwards. Dr. Jennings, part of the original Hyperscore team at the MIT Media Lab, encourages teachers to start by asking a student to place that first note in the Melody Window. Ask the student to process: Do I like the pitch? Do I like the length? Do I like the instrument choice? If I change it, do I like it better? Why or why not? With experimentation and reacting as the key, students would learn to build a composition. Moving forward purposefully with each successive note allows the student to become a creative composer!

Hyperscore as an alternative to traditional notation

Most interestingly, Dr. Jennings believes that the visual representation of music in Hyperscore bypasses the need for understanding standard notation first in order to be able to compose. In Hyperscore, student composers can visually see the difference between a quarter note and a half note. They can see, and hear, that a note is higher or lower than another, composing intuitively as they manipulate their musical choices. Should instruction move on to include the music staff, the visual mode lends itself to greater understanding of the complexity of standard notation. As students react to, and discuss what they are hearing in their compositions, the teacher can introduce musical concepts and terminology (“that’s called a major third”).

Sage on the stage or guide on the side? Inverting the pedagogy helps to connect with students

In this inverted pedagogy, Dr. Jennings states that the teacher becomes a “guide, mentor, partner, co-creator/co-conspirator” in the student’s process. As a teacher myself, I find that there is no greater joy than to hear students talking to each other about their composition process or sitting at a computer with a student and pointing out rising sequences that they instinctively placed into their piece because they liked the pattern and wanted to hear it again, but in a different way.

Do you want to gift your students with the opportunity to create music purposefully? Dr. Jennings encourages you to follow the advice of Canadian Professor of Music Theory Charles Morrison and “be a guide on the side, not a sage on the stage”–Hyperscore empowers you, the teacher, to be that guide.

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Empower kids to tell their stories through music. Set their creativity free with your support!