The Vermont Midi Project

The purpose of the Vermont MIDI Project, as explained on their web site,  “is to encourage and support students in composing and arranging music. A community of professional composers, teachers, pre-service educators, and students engage in mentoring and online discussion of student work.” Last year, Nathaniel’s solo piece was selected as a finalist. This year, Ellinore and Carrie are in the midst of pulling together their own piece of music. The deadline for the completion of their composition is next Monday.

Michaela, Antonia, Alli (the TGS Music teacher) and Nathaniel

If you visit the Vermont Midi Project web site you will see how the whole thing works. Or, you can take the easy route, and follow the link below that will allow you to listen to Nathaniel’s piece of music, “Memories.” His piece inspired one of the composers and musicians and he has been continuing to play the piece over the summer, winter and fall.

Here is what it says on the Vermont Midi site:

Memories, a solo violin work composed by Nathaniel Todd Long, a sixth grader from The Grammar School in Putney, VT was performed by Willie Docto at the Montgomery Historical Society on August 1st and at a house concert on August 2nd in Waterbury Center. Congratulations to Nathaniel. Hear his Opus 18 performance. You will need to click on music, and then on memories. You can listen to the piece and read Nathaniel’s bio and description of his piece.

Ellinore and Carrie have  Monday to complete their work. Here is the feedback the two little composers have received:

Description Of Piece:
Violin/Cello duet.

Request For Mentor Feedback:

We’re just getting started so any feedback would be appreciated.


Carrie & Ellinore


Fri February 05, 2010, 06:10 PMComment to Composer
Comment posted by Alexandra Fol:

Dear Carrie and Ellinore!

Thank you for sharing your music. Before I get into details I wish to ask you have you studied classical harmony and counterpoint? Your skilful writing suggests that you have. I am asking, because I am want to know how detailed my explanations should be.

What you have written so far is very catchy! The violin and cello are very similar in their material. They both play about the same amount of rapid notes in the middle of their register. When you continue composing consider distinguishing the two parts from one another. Here are some ways to do that:

1)       You can give a series of long notes to one instrument and continue writing shorter note values in the other.

2)       Insert occasional rests in each of the parts. Your music is very continuous and in time this may be tirering to listen to.

3)       Make one of the instruments suddenly jump in range. This will draw our attention to its music immediately.

4)       You could continue writing similar rhythms in both instruments. In this case you could have one line be very smooth and the other one – jumpy! This will create a nice contrast!

In terms of what you already have there is a specific place where I feel you should change one of the parts – the second beat of measure 10. There both instruments play an E followed by a C. this is called a “parallel octave”. The reason why it stands out as cluncky is that suddenly both different parts fall “in sink” and one of them will seem redundant.

Dear Carrie and Ellinore, you have a very strong opening to work with. Please, consider my suggestions above for the continuation of your piece and continue with your good work!

Best wishes,

Alexandra Fol

Edit | Delete

Tue February 09, 2010, 06:26 PMRevision of Student Work
Comment posted by Alli Lubin:

We worked really hard on our piece and we like it a lot! Your comments so far would be appreciated.


Carrie & Ellinore

Sun February 14, 2010, 07:53 PMComment to Composer
Comment posted by Alexandra Fol:

Dear Carrie and Ellinore!

It is obvious that you have worked hard – your piece is definitely developing very nicely! You have taken my suggestions into consideration and in view of how well you are doing, I am going to give you some new things to think about!

Register: The violin and the cello always play in the staff. They span for about an octave each. Do you know that the cello can go down to C two lines below the staff? It can also play up at least an octave and a half! The cello has a huge range! Do make use of it! The violin on the other side, can go down to a G two-lines below the staff and, again, at least an octave and a half above what you have written so far! Remember, you are writing for professional players. Don’t restrict yourselves to one octave – Not only will the professionals know how to play, but your piece will obtain more breadth.

Pizzicato: Do you know what pizzicato is? This is when a player plucks the string with his or her finger instead of bowing it. This is a Wikipedia article about it:

This is a children’s orchestra from my country, Bulgaria, playing a piece called “Pizzicato polka” by a composer called Johann Strauss Jr. Some of these music students are your age and younger!…:-) This piece only uses pizzicato. You can hear how it sounds.

Use of repetition: If you repeat and vary interesting material, your piece will become more memorable. Currently you don’t really repeat any motifs or melodies. You will yourself be more likely to recall everything you write if you employ certain material (motif, line, or chord) more than once. This is a cool piece by the same composer, Johann Strauss Jr. It is for orchestra, not for a duet, but I am showing it to you, because it includes many repetitions, which are combined in melodies. This renders the tune really memorable and catchy. The video also has beautiful pictures:

Change the importance between one instrument and another: Take a listen to this violin and cello duet: Notice that the two instruments are equally important on the large scale, but they actually alternate in playing a melody or part of a melody. This creates a balance between the instruments and also allows for the texture to breathe a little.

Dear Carrie and Ellinore, your piece is progressing wonderfully and I am looking forward your next revision.

Best wishes:


Sun February 14, 2010, 10:26 PMComment to Composer
Comment posted by Dominique Gagne:

Dear Carrie and Ellinore,

I have to agree with what Alexandra wrote: you are very talented at writing both melody and counterpoint! Congratulations on the beginnings of a fine piece.

As Alexandra has already given you many good comments, I am going to focus on the harmony that you use in your piece. I am going to make some suggestions that you may or may choose to use, but I hope you come to understand a bit more about how chords and harmony work in music!

First, I went through and tried to figure out what chord you were using for each measure. This is called harmonic analysis. What I found out is that sometimes it was hard to tell what your intention was because you did not always use the root (the most important note!) of the chord. For example, at the very beginning, it seems likeyou want to have the sound of a C chord, so try putting in a C in the ‘cello part for the first two beats. This more clearly defines for the listener that we are in C.

Second, In measure 2, it seems like you woudl like an a minor sound (a,c,e), so try putting an a in the ‘cello part, first two beats and see how you like it.

I wanted to include my analysis for you as well. These are the chords that I think you intended. Again, look to see if the ‘cello part is playing the root note of each chord (which is the same as the name of the chord.) Note: Capital letters are major chords, such as C major = C,E,G and lower-case are minor, such as a minor: a,c,e


1 C

2 a minor?

3 G

4 e minor then C?

5 F?

6 G then F?

7 C then a minor?

8 C?

9 G

10  a minor then C?

11 G then C?

12 C

13 G

14 a minor?

15 C

16 C

17 C

18 G

19 C

20 d minor

21,22,23 ?

Hope this helps!

Looking forward to your next posting!


Thu February 18, 2010, 10:56 PMRevision of Student Work
Comment posted by Alli Lubin:
Thank you so much for giving us the suggestions of adding rests. We tried this and like it a lot! Thanks and hope you like our latest revision.
Carrie & Ellinore

Fri February 19, 2010, 08:49 PMComment to Composer
Comment posted by Alexandra Fol:

Dear Carrie and Ellinore,

Good job! Is your piece finished? I am asking, because I see a double barline after your last measure. Do you intend to continue a bit further? It would be helpful if you let us know, since we can tailor our suggestions better for you.

If this is your end, then it seems a bit too abrupt. If you want to end, there are a couple of tricks to make it really convincing. You can use them in combination too.

1)      End on a fifth or an octave

2)      Write gradually longer notes to prepare the finish

3)      Make the bottom line descend by step to the main note (in your case, C)

Your measure 17 is really interesting and the rests allow the texture to breathe a bit. Consider making some other notes around the piece shorter – not too many, you don’t want to overdo it, but just enough to make the rests “stick”.

If you choose to continue the piece, don’t be afraid to spread the instrument away from one another. Every violinist will tell you, they just love to play high notes!


Happy composing and until your next revision!

Best wishes:


Sat March 06, 2010, 12:04 PMRevision of Student Work
Comment posted by Alli Lubin:
Dear Composer,
We tried putting the violin up higher and the cello down lower. We liked the results mostly. We also changed the title and tried adding some of the measures from the original motif. That was good too but we added some rests to change it around. Hope you like it,
Carrie & Ellinore

Sun March 07, 2010, 09:43 PMComment to Composer
Comment posted by Alexandra Fol:

Dear Carrie and Ellinore!

Oh, I do like it! Do you? You should like your piece too!

I have a question – is measure 31 going to be the last measure of the piece? If yes, then when you compose the cello try to make a very convincing ending to let us know this is really the end. As your piece is in C major try having a half-note G (known as the “dominant”) go to a half-note C (known as “the tonic”, so the most important note) in the last measure. This will make it really sink!

Do you know the cello can go really low? It can play a C two lines below the bass staff. If you go down to this C at the end you will really make it sound final.

Best wishes,


Tue March 09, 2010, 03:41 PMComment to Composer
Comment posted by Matthew McConnell:

Dear Carrie and Ellinore,

Your composition is very well-written.  I have a couple short comments for you.

In terms of your note choices and some harmonies, your piece is reminiscent of a few works by Praetorius.  Check out the first part of this clip on Youtube to listen to some similarities:

I have one observation regarding just a couple of your note choices.  In measure 14, when both instruments land on B, it sounds a little “hollow” compared to the music before.  What would happen if the cello played a low G instead of a B?  Other places where “hollow” octaves occur are in measures 25 and 26.  Although there’s nothing wrong with octaves, they do stick out in a piece like this where so much harmonic variety has occurred.

Like Alexandra mentioned, bringing the cello back at the end would make for an ending that really sounds final.

Lastly, have you thought about adding dynamics (and a tempo marking) to the score?

Great job!  I’m excited to hear how you finish this up.

Best,~Matt McConnell

Fri March 26, 2010, 11:28 PMRevision of Student Work
Comment posted by Alli Lubin:

Dear Composers,

Thank you so much for all of the great advice. We tried using the idea of adding more rests, really liked it, and decided to keep going with it. All of your letters were very helpful. Thanks again,

Ellinore & Carrie

Fri March 26, 2010, 11:59 PMComment to Composer
Comment posted by Alexandra Fol:

Dear Carrie and Ellinore!

Good work! Is this the last version of your piece? If you have some time to work on it before the deadline, I encourage you to put in some dynamics, such as piano and forte to tell the players whether to play loud or soft. You may want one of the players to play louder than the other one at places.

Also, do you know what slurs are? They are meant to indicate whether the player will play connected (also known as legato) or separate notes. Right now all your notes are separate – is this what you want? To input slurs, select the note where you want the slur to start and press S. Then use the space bar or simply drag the slur.

Congratulations on your piece!

Best wishes, Alexandra

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