International Music Composition and Coaching Collaboration

We would like to share a story of our international music making and teaching collaboration with our students. Nisreen and Donnie are both Apple Distinguished Educators, class of 2023 (best class ever!). At ADE Institute 2023 in Dallas, we discussed a few possibilities for collaboration. We would like to share with you the results of our pilot program and hope you’ll consider collaborating with other teachers and students far away (or near) as well. Although our content area is music, this idea can easily be applied to any area.

Nisreen Jardaneh is a pianist and special music educator at Lotus Centre for Special Music Education. She spreads joy of music making through workshops in the community, lessons online and in her home studio. Donald "Donnie" Sorah is a music professor at The University of Virginia’s College at Wise where he teaches a variety of courses including music composition.


In my home studio, I teach general music and piano. My students also get to create projects with the iPad. This project aimed to give students a space for creative storytelling with art and music. 


A poster sharing details about a Storytelling with Music program created by Nisreen Jardaneh.

Students were given different options to pick from on how to tell a story through art. They liked the idea of art and music! We were very fortunate that artist Ruby Al Salem who is specializing in art therapy sent us a few of her favorite pieces. Students then picked their favorite painting and composed a piece in GarageBand to represent their chosen work of art, taking into consideration emotions, instrumentation, story timelines, etc. It was wonderful to see them interpret, discuss, make decisions and reflect at a young age (8-12 years old)!

I contacted my dear friend and colleague Donnie to ask if he and his students could collaborate and provide feedback to my students. He enthusiastically said YES! Despite being the end of term and the busy schedule for he and his students, they wanted to support this project. My students were so thrilled and felt so proud about receiving feedback. Not only that, they had to spot edits and changes that were done to their compositions. 


I spoke with my music composition students about the project that Nisreen and I had designed. Granted we were in the last week of classes for the semester and life for students was quite hectic, two students volunteered to participate. Both students were senior Music Education majors who will find themselves in the classroom within a few semesters. 

When we received the GarageBand projects Nisreen’s students had created, we were truly impressed not only with the work they had created but from the creativity of their work inspired by the artwork of Ruby Al Salem. What a unique and creative opportunity! As this was our first coaching session for a project of this type, my students and I viewed the images, listened to the projects, and discussed how to offer the feedback and what types of feedback would be helpful, ensuring that these college students would be able to frame their comments in a way that would be understood by younger learners (a great experience to prepare them for their careers). 

Over the next few days, my students shared their feedback for each student with me along with some adjustments and additions to each student’s GarageBand project file resulting in a fully collaborative activity. All modifications made to each student’s project were discussed in the feedback narrative. There were two student projects that we weren’t able to pair up with one of my students due to the busy concluding weeks of the semester, so I gladly accepted the opportunity to participate, offering my feedback and collaboration. We shared the feedback and revised/supplemented projects with Nisreen to discuss with her students. My students were proud to have participated in this first iteration of our international music teaching collaboration, stating that they learned how to provide constructive feedback, and that they were looking forward to more collaboration.


Letter from college student to young composer sharing feedback on their composition.
Dawson's feedback for Etienne


From that phase, my students worked in iMovie to combine the artwork with their original music in order to produce the media project so they could present the big picture. They have learned so much about transitions, backgrounds, intro/outro, cropping, adjust volumes, etc. They were so excited when they saw the end product launched and celebrated. It is posted on my YouTube Channel. This was such a wonderful learning opportunity for these students to express themselves through art and music! and I’m so grateful to have amazing educators who are always there to support and collaborate to enrich the learning journey of our students!


Collaboration across borders and among two different age levels provides opportunities for all parties to grow. The international component of the project brings a realization of global connection, that regardless of our nation or homeland, we are humans and musicians who crave interaction with others and have a desire to learn from each other. The ability for students of disparate age groups to collaborate provided an opportunity for my college students to practice providing feedback on student composition. Our students normally observe and learn how to provide feedback on musical performance, but rarely have an opportunity to provide feedback on music creation such as this. This project was a unique and significant activity in their development as musicians and educators.

Nisreen and Donnie

We look forward to continuing this collaborative project that enriched the learning experience for students at different levels. We encourage other educators, regardless of content area, to explore cross-curricular and cross-cultural cooperative projects of this nature.

These are the culminating student works...

Dancing Around The World by Yasmeen (Age 12) + Donnie Sorah

My Happy House by Amira (Age 8) +  Donnie Sorah

 Living a Beat Through Music by Etienne (Age 9) + Dawson (UVA Wise Student)

A Flying Balloon by Sacha (Age 13) + Ian (UVA Wise Student)

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Posted on June 07, 2024

So grateful for such a wonderful collaboration :)

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