This research explored essential elements to be considered when teaching US students to develop and define creativity in the general elementary (students aged 5–11 years) music classroom. This case study focused on answering the following research questions: 

1) What are students’ perceptions of creativity? 

2) How can music educators successfully implement improvisation lessons to promote student creativity and learning? 

Data included students’ in-class written work and homework, and field notes taken during observations of classroom discussions after improvisation lessons. Analysis of this data provided evidence that students produce more creative, original music when they are more confident with their musical ability. Students viewed music they enjoyed as creative. Students also believed that a variety of instruments or rhythms make music creative. Although improvisation skills were demonstrated for students, the results indicated that students might take more risks when creating music if their teachers played music and demonstrated skills more often in class. Keywords composition, creativity, elementary music education, improvisation It should be a goal for every music educator, whether they are a generalist or specialist, to foster creativity in students while developing their musical skills. Improvisation and composition are fundamental aspects included in the music curriculum in US elementary schools. Without a doubt, incorporating improvisation and composition into the elementary general music classroom is essential for a comprehensive program because students then can create original music. 

International Journal of Music Education Coulson and Burke 2013 Article Coulson and Burke 429 designing lessons that address both creativity and student learning can pose a challenge to some novice, as well as experienced, music educators. In addition, perceptions of creativity in music among students and teachers are oftentimes subjective. Crow (2008) studied pre-service teachers’ perceptions of musical creativity. Participants were training to become secondary music teachers in England. Data were collected from the teachers before and after they engaged in their student teaching practicum. Pre-service teachers in this study revealed difficulties their students encountered during class regarding creative experiences.

 Lack of confidence was a major factor that contributed to difficulties when creating music. This pertained to students not being confident with the instruments and lacking personal confidence to explore creativity. In addition, students in Crow’s study were vulnerable when they felt unprepared. A lack of musical skills needed to compose or improvise, and a lack of effective modeling or support also contributed to difficulty with creative experiences. Crow (2008) recognized that teachers in training are often unclear as to how creativity is defined in music. Identifying various kinds of creativity that can be conveyed in the classroom can help music teachers teach creatively and teach for creativity. Overall, “in a contested, crowded and increasingly creativity-based curriculum, the meaning of a ‘creative music education’ needs to be clarified” (Crow, 2008, p. 387). 

How teachers organize and present lessons influences student learning. It is ultimately a teacher’s responsibility to design effective lessons and encourage students to think creatively. When done well, students can develop both music literacy skills and the ability to create original music with confidence. Nonetheless, what does an effective lesson look like? What components should be included in these lessons? As a result of reading Crow’s study, the authors believe that more research is needed to determine the best way to encourage student learning and creative thinking in elementary music classrooms.