Music Composition Intro Camp

Music Composition Intro Camp

Ages 13-18


Are you a musician who has always wanted to compose your own works? At the Music Composition Intro Camp, we will learn to build and engrave our own compositions. Through structured listening, discussion, application, and improvisation, you will learn elements of the composer’s creative process. Topics will include melodic construction, harmony, counterpoint, form, instrumentation, and contemporary practices. We will also explore digital notation software and how to prepare works for publishing and delivering to a performer. At the end of camp, you will have the chance to showcase your new work!

What you should know to take this workshop: Basic understanding of treble and bass clef, experience playing an instrument, and a basic understanding of music theory (scales, key signatures, time signatures). Participants are encouraged to bring in pieces they are currently working on, although it is not required.

Course Objectives

Tentative Schedule

Day 1: Daily Listening and improvisation exercises, discussion. Compositional process overview. Exercises in melodic and harmonic construction, counterpoint.  

Day 2: Daily Listening and improvisation exercises, discussion. Formal processes, instrumentation and orchestration for a small set of instruments from various families…score study. Final project choices, Pre-composition sketches of a new work. 

Day 3: Daily Listening and improvisation exercises, discussion. Engraving, delivering a score to a performer. Further exercises in counterpoint and orchestration. Free composing time. Preparing new pieces for the morning reading session. 

Day 4: Initial reading sessions. Daily Listening and improvisation exercises, discussion. Presentation by guest presenter. Time for revisions based on feedback from reading session. Free composing time. 

Day 5: Revised reading sessions. Practice presentations for showcase. Showcase concert.  

Ages: 13-18

Dates: Aug 7 – 11, 2023
9:00 am – 4:00 pm 

Tuition: $467

Location: Mason Fairfax Campus, deLaski Performing Arts Building

Covid Safety Information

Program Faculty

John Jansen
Dewberry School of Music Faculty, Music Technology

John C.L. Jansen is an active composer, multi-instrumentalist, luthier, author, recording engineer, and teacher of music technology and music theory, based in Takoma Park, Maryland.

John’s compositions are influenced by a reverence of nature, a love of patterns, and the energy of minimalism. He currently divides his time between writing chamber works for ensembles of existing instruments and writing for original instruments and tuning systems he designs himself. His music has been performed across the United States by the Partch Quartet, the Grand Valley State University New Music EnsembleDuo Atmos, chamber band Drive (J:)Decho Ensemble, the violinist Todd Reynolds, and saxophonist Jacob Swanson.

A strong advocate for new music, John has appeared at Strange Beautiful Music VI and VII in Detroit, Michigan with the GVSU New Music Ensemble, as well as accompanied the same group on four tours of the national parks—reaching twenty parks spanning the West Coast to the East Coast. In 2016 John co-founded Drive (J:), a chamber band from Fredonia, New York. With Drive (J:), John has appeared at the New Music Gathering in Boston, MA, and released two studio albums: places/spaces, and Phenomenology. As a solo performer, he has appeared at the New York City Electro Acoustic Music Festival and the Hot Air New Music Festival in San Francisco, California. John has also collaborated with Bang On A Can to restore Glenn Branca’s Movement Within, a piece for an ensemble of original instruments designed for a seven-octave overtone tuning. He worked directly with the original instruments, and the final product was performed live on WNYC’s New Sounds program.

As an instrument builder, John invented a 3rd bridge instrument called the duochord, a 9-foot-long amplified zither which allows the user to isolate string partials, and to generate clouds of reverberant harmonics. He is also one of the only builders of daxophones, and pick-behind-the-bridge guitars, little-known inventions by Hans Reichel.

In 2020, John founded JLJ Instruments, a company that produces experimental musical instruments. The company has shipped globally, with orders ranging from daxophones to microtonal guitars.

Adjunct Professor of Music

  • Music and Computer Technology


  • BA Music Composition, Grand Valley State University
  • MM Music Composition, SUNY Fredonia


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