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50 Life Lessons in 50 Years

Today I embark on my 2nd half-century on the planet. With acknowledgement to all of the wonderful people who have served as my sources of education and inspiration, here are a few lessons I’ve learned from the first 50 years: 

Relationships, Parenting, Family & Friends

1.   FIND PEOPLE WHO SHARE YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR. The 2 most important people in my life laugh at the same things that I laugh at. Everything else is easier when you have that going for you.

2.   JUST BE PRESENT WHEN NEEDED. You don’t have to be perfect to be a great friend or family memberCCortello 015 Fam 3 Gens (father, mother, sister, brother, aunt, uncle…) – You just have to be there. Showing up, in good times and bad, despite their shortcomings, is 80% of what they need.

3.   THINK BEFORE YOU ACT. YOUR KIDS ARE WATCHING. Everything you do affects your children. If you have kids, pause and think before you act. The greatest impact you can have on the planet is raising a thoughtful, compassionate, hard-working member of the next generation.

4.   LIFE MUST BE LIVED, NOT JUST TAUGHT. We want to protect our children from mistakes, failure, heartache, and pain. But in the end, we have to let them live their own lives, because amidst all of those emotions and experiences are life’s greatest lessons…But you have to live ‘em to learn ‘em.

5.   PARENTS DON’T HAVE ALL OF THE ANSWERS. Children, have compassion for your parents. We are endlessly seeking answers to all of life’s questions just like you, and we don’t have as much time left to figure it out.

6.   GIVE HUGS OFTEN, SAY I LOVE YOU, AND GATHER TOGETHER. I was fortunate enough to be born into an extended family that lives by those principles. If you aren’t that lucky, be the person who starts changingCCortello 016 KCC your family culture.

7.   SUPPORT YOUR LOVED ONES’ DREAMS.

8.   IF YOU FIND SOMEONE YOU LOVE WHO SUPPORTS YOUR DREAMS, HANG ON TO THEM.

9.   PEOPLE ARE ASSETS, but not all have the same strengths. Don’t judge others or condescend because they don’t think, act, or achieve in the same way that you do. Everybody can operate at genius levels in some capacity (Brian Tracy), and you can learn something from everyone you meet. I’m a relatively talented musician and a decent writer, but lift the hood of my car and my sheltie and I have roughly the same chance of diagnosing the problem.

10.  LET GO OF YOUR GRUDGES. That person you resent, envy, or despise isn’t wasting a moment obsessing over YOU. Holding onto those emotions is like drinking poison and hoping they get sick. Move on.

 

Life, Attitude, and Well-Being

11.  LIFE’S SIMPLE PLEASURES ARE THE BEST. If you can’t find joy in the simple things in life, the joy you find in fancy, expensive things won’t last.

12.  THIS IS THE TIME TO REMEMBER (BILLY JOEL). If I’d have known how much time I’d spend with CCortello 009 IA Fest Bebopfamily and friends reminiscing about and fondly remembering days gone by, I would have appreciated them more at the time. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking life will get better when I achieve this or acquire that. All we have is this moment in time.

13.  LIVE CURIOUSLY. New experiences will give you a reason to look forward to tomorrow. Observations will provide a compass for finding opportunity.

14.  DO SOMETHING CREATIVE EVERY DAY. Creative ability is like a muscle – it either strengthens with use or withers with inactivity. And there are few things more gratifying than creating something from your own imagination that never existed previously, whether it’s a song, a painting, or a new business.

CCortello 006 Kim-Date15.  KARMA IS REAL…and it can cut both ways. Treat everyone with respect. When you find yourself possessing skills and/or experiences that others on the planet are in need of, answer the call and trust that the rewards will come.

16.  TAKE CHANCES. The safe choice short-term is often the dangerous choice long-term. Take chances – calculated and thoughtfully planned, but take chances.

17.  BE OPTIMISTIC, BUT DON’T IGNORE THE FACTS.

18.  YOU EITHER LIVE A LIFE BASED ON LOVE OR FEAR. MOVE TOWARD LOVE. Your happiness will be determined by which one controls your actions the greatest percentage of time – Love or Fear (Google “Jim Carrey commencement speech” for a more eloquent commentary, or watch the Albert Brooks movie Defending Your Life).

19.  INTUITION IS A POWERFUL VOICE. Once upon a time people who followed their gut instinct or intuition were seen as “just winging it” in life. There’s a growing school of thought that intuition is your subconscious processing all of your past experiences in order to help guide you in your decisions in life. Prior to making CCortello 003 CJDmost of the poor decisions in your life, wasn’t there usually a voice inside of you saying, “What are you doing!?” Take time to get away from the noise in your life, do a little introspection, and don’t ignore that voice of intuition.

20.  IF YOU’RE ANGRY, LOOK WITHIN. That’s usually the source.

21.  DON’T BE TOO PROUD TO ASK FOR HELP. If you’re suffering or engaged in destructive behaviors, reach out for help. It takes courage to suck it up, forget your past and move on. It takes greater courage to confront your issues head on and CCortello 002 Fam-3understand how your fears and insecurities are affecting you today. Scrap your pride. It’s too important to you and the people around you.

22.  FOLLOW YOUR OWN DREAMS. The greatest limitations are those imaginary, psychological ones we place on ourselves when we say “I can’t.” Once you’ve made up your mind to accomplish something, every other obstacle is just a speed bump.

23.  START WORKING ON YOUR DREAM TODAY. In the last 10 years I’ve written and independently published 2 books and recorded a 12-song CD with 6 originals. I get exhausted just thinking about the work it took, and I’m not sure I could do it again. WHAT DID I LEARN?

CCortello 011EdDebChiNo one ever says they aren’t going to accomplish things important to them, they just put them off one day at a time until it’s too late (quote from unknown source). Just do a little bit at a time, but GET STARTED TODAY, and DO A LITTLE EVERYDAY. In 3 years you’ll either say “I’m so happy I started 3 years ago” or you’ll be in the same place you are today. The time will pass anyway, but tomorrow is guaranteed to no one. GET STARTED.

24.  HELP OTHERS, BUT DON’T FORGET YOURSELF. You’re no good to others if you’re not mentally, physically, and spiritually healthy.

25.  DON’T COMPLAIN OR CRITICIZE. We all do, but I find the less I do it, the more peaceful I am.

26.  LIMIT THE AMOUNT OF TIME YOU SPEND AROUND PEOPLE WHO COMPLAIN OR CRITICIZE.CCortello 007 Fam-Guys Snow

27.  LIFE ISN’T ALWAYS EASY. In fact, sometimes it’s miserable. Work through it and trust that you are gaining skills and knowledge that will serve you and those around you well when you need them the most.

28.  THE WEIGHT IS OVER. Like most people, my weight has varied (across about a 20 lb. range) most of my adult life. It’s a never-ending battle, but here’s my 2 cents on losing weight: 1) Snacking is inevitable, so keep healthy food around. 2) When eating out, always leave something on the plate to take home, no matter how small. 3) A little larger portion of protein, a little smaller portion of carbs. 4) Soft drinks are my Achilles, but try to substitute water or tea instead on occasion. 5) Treat yourself every once in a while, and don’t beat yourself up when you do. 6) If you’re eating as a comfort to soothe emotional issues, the last 5 tips are useless. Refer back to life lesson #21.

CCortello 008 Fam-3 SBS Grad29.  KEEP YOUR PROMISES AND APOLOGIZE QUICKLY WHEN YOU DON’T. Trust is difficult to earn, and easy to lose. Live up to your promises in life and apologize quickly when you don’t – principles that are simple but not easy.

30.  NO DRESS REHEARSALS IN LIFE. My cousin Joseph always says, “There are no dress rehearsals in life.” He’s right. This is the real deal. Seize the moment. Live with the intention of ensuring that you’ll have no regrets about things you didn’t try, say, or accomplish in life.

31.  BE COMFORTABLE WITH YOUR IMPERFECTIONS, YOUR PAST, AND YOUR MISTAKES. Humans are insecure and so afraid of showing our imperfections and struggles. So we put on a facade and hope the world doesn’t see us for who we are. What a shame and oh, the irony. Our flaws are precisely what make us human, CCortello 012 Craig-Kim Mardi Grasand sharing those imperfections and struggles can be the greatest source of comfort to others. Forgive yourself and stop beating yourself up over your decisions from the past. Until you learn to love yourself, you won’t find satisfaction from anyone or anything else.

32.  GET BACK IN THE RING. KEEP PUNCHING. When life beats you down, just keep answering the bell. If you just keep swinging in life, you will eventually land a few knockout punches, guaranteed.

33.  CELEBRATE YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS. Sometimes we’re so focused on the next goal, the daunting task ahead, and the challenges confronting us that we forget how much we’ve accomplished. Make a list and reflect on occasion. It will give you the energy you need to press on toward your next success.

 

Work

34.  NEVER STOP LEARNING. Pay for training if you need it. Read a book. Watch how-to videos. It’s never been easier to find learning resources. Your employer owes you nothing but the paycheck for services rendered.

CCortello 010 Leadership Challenge35.  FIND YOUR “ELEMENT” IN LIFE. When you are in your “Element,” work energizes you. When you are not, work drains the life out of you. Find the work and activities in life that put you in your Element and pursue them relentlessly. The world doesn’t need another miserable nine-to-fiver. (See the book The Element by Sir Ken Robinson or anything else he’s written, said, or done)

36.  FIND PEOPLE WHO ARE SUCCESSFUL and who have the skills and attitudes you hope to attain and hang around them, talk to them, or just read about them. It’s a cliché, but you can’t learn to fly with the eagles by hanging around with turkeys.

37.  PASSION + APTITUDE + VOCATION = SUCCESS. There are things you love to do, things in life you’re good at, and things that you can earn a living doing. If you find something that fits in all 3 categories, you’ve hit the jackpot.CCortello 013 UConn Book

38.  PUT IN THE WORK. Choose a vocation that you find rewarding, but understand that not every hour of every day is an exercise in self-actualization and fulfillment. Sometimes you just have to do grunt work and make sacrifices until you’re valuable to your company and your customers.

39.  LUCK = PREPARATION + OPPORTUNITY. Luck happens at the intersection of preparation and opportunity. People who complain about other people who are lucky wouldn’t know an opportunity if it hit them in the head and haven’t done anything to be able to capitalize on it anyway.

40.  FOCUS AND FINISH. Multi-tasking is a fallacy and a buzz word. I’m much more productive when I focus, don’t get distracted from the task at hand, and see it through to completion. 

Lifestyle

41.  OWN A DOG. No creature spreads happiness so generously and unconditionally.

CCortello 004 CD42.  MUSIC IS MAGICAL. Playing and listening to music can be as spiritual an experience as there is on earth, and the benefits are immeasurable.

43.  MY FAVORITE THINGS. Pelicans in flight, Spumoni from Angelo Brocato’s, writing, songwriting, my son’s laughter, my wife’s smile, waves hitting the beach, clouds, comedies (Groundhog Day, Tommy Boy, My Blue Heaven, Napoleon Dynamite, Let it Ride), streetcars, sunsets, guitars, pianos, The Beatles, Steely Dan, Todd Rundgren, dogs, the view of Jackson Square from Washington Artillery Park, helping a customer make the right purchase, Bocce Ball, Fantasy Football, A golf course early in the morning, family gatherings, and a breeze coming off Lake Pontchartrain – These are a few of my favorite things.

44.  NEW ORLEANS IS A TREASURE. With all of its flaws and quirks, New Orleans and its people are among the greatest treasures in the world. I’m thankful everyday to live in the midst of such a unique setting and population. The resilience demonstrated in the wake of Hurricane Katrina is a source of immense pride.CCortello 014 LP Book

 

Spirituality

45.  GOD BLESSES THE WORKING MAN. There are people who wake up every day and do real work – physical, exhausting, demanding work in sometimes extreme conditions over long hours for less money than they CCortello 005 Fam-3 Saintsdeserve so that the rest of us can enjoy life’s creature comforts. God bless them all. And if they get to cut in line at the Pearly Gates and get better seats than me at Heaven’s Auditorium, well they’ve earned it.

46.  PRAY FOR STRENGTH, NOT FOR ANSWERS. This one comes from Mother Theresa. If you’re not a spiritual person, read it anyway. You can still learn from those who are:

“I used to pray that God would feed the hungry, or do this or that, but now I pray that he will guide me to do whatever I’m supposed to do, what I can do. I used to pray for answers, but now I’m praying for strength. I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us and we change things.”

~ Mother Teresa

 

When All is Said and Done…

47.  YOUR LIFE IS YOUR OWN. When you’re on your deathbed the only person who has to be happy with the life you’ve chosen and the decisions you’ve made is you. People-pleasing for their reasons and not yours is a recipe for misery.CCortello 001 SB Fam

48.  IT’S THE SMALL ACTIONS THAT MAKE A LARGE LIFE. In life, everyone wants to accomplish something on a grand scale to achieve a certain level of recognition, fame, or immortality. But when it’s all said and done, your life is more a collection of millions of small moments and actions. The sum of your actions during those moments and the impact you have on the world and others – That’s your legacy.

Groundhog Day is one of my favorite movies of all time because it illustrates that principle so well. Do the best you can each and every moment, be the best person you can be in whatever small way you can, and each action is a ripple that becomes a wave of goodwill.

49.  SHARE WHAT YOU’VE LEARNED WITH OTHERS. If you’ve lived on this planet for a couple of decades or more, you’ve learned something valuable that can benefit others. Life would be better in a world full of educators. Share your knowledge and experience generously before it’s too late.

50.  IN THE END, “THE LOVE YOU TAKE IS EQUAL TO THE LOVE YOU MAKE.” (Lennon/McCartney).

I posed a question of some of the greatest guitar players living in/emanating from/or with ties to New Orleans recently regarding picking/fingering technique that some guitar players grapple with, particularly jazz guitarists:

Q:  Alright guitarists, question. I often prefer using thumb and fingers to pluck chords, especially when omitting a string, but prefer the pick when soloing. I’ve seen some with a “slip” pick that’s attached to a thumb or finger that you can slide around as needed. Have you found an off the shelf solution, and if you’ve developed your own gizmo, what do you use?

Steve Olsen:

“I slip the pick between my index and middle while comping chords or chord melody playing…when I need to solo the pick is handy”

Steve’s website

Davy Mooney:

“I always use pick and fingers, and keep my nails kinda long, so they sound kinda like picks. I wrestled with various solutions for years before settling on this one….”

Davy’s Website

 

Jimmy Robinson:

“I make a pick with a plastic electrical clamp and a little screwpost. It fits on my index finger. When using my fingers, or thumb, the pick is completely out of the way. It does require re learning technique a bit, but it works for me. Cranston Clements is the other person on earth who uses it. You can see it in this clip”


Jimmy’s website

Bill Solley:

“I play finger style completely using classical guitar technique along with a few of my own!!!”

Bill’s (and vocalist Kim Prevost’s) Website

 

Bus Flip ChrtMusic Educators do a great job of tracking and celebrating their most successful artists. High School Band Directors invite their former student band members to come back as a featured guest performers. University music programs bring back their most successful performing graduates to lecture students, give concerts, or hire them as adjunct professors.

I overheard a private piano teacher proudly boasting that one of her former students performed on a nationally televised show recently. I’m sure she knew at every step of his career where he was studying, who his influences were, where he had performed, and what he had recorded. She was beaming with pride as she spoke, and she had every reason and right to do so.

Yet what about those former students who only continued to play music recreationally or for relaxation? What about those who quit playing music altogether after they left school? Do you know where they are today?

Your music advocacy efforts will have limited impact if you can only demonstrate that you were able to nurture the talents of the gifted artist. The success of your efforts to provide broader funding of music education programs for all students will require testimonials from successes of a different kind.

How about the doctors, engineers, and sales professionals who point to performing in front of a live audience, learning rhythm/timing, or collaborating with other members of an ensemble as building blocks for their future careers outside of music? Where are they, and what do they have to say about that experience? Sure, you believe in the universal benefits of music education and you tell anyone who asks how beneficial that exposure can be, but are you engaging those who can tell that story in a personal and objective way?

Biz-Music_1in-w

From a career in sales and sales management primarily outside of the music business, I can tell you that a salesperson’s assertions are not nearly as effective as a reference or testimonial from a satisfied customer. When I hear a customer telling a friend or colleague in casual conversation what a pleasure it is doing business with my organization,  I know that my job of winning over that prospect just became easier by leaps and bounds.

I know that keeping track of former students is difficult. So is making a living as music educator these days, so you get my point.

My high school alma mater picks one football game a year and invites band alums to come back for a few rehearsals, then they perform with current students at halftime. What a great idea.

Keep a directory, invite music alums to your concerts and events, and let them share their story – regardless of whether or not they can still carry a tune!

List of Articles on the Correlation Between Music Education and Success

FROM THE BAND ROOM TO THE BOARDROOM…The 9 Common Lessons of Music Education that Translate Into Success

Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden

In increasingly turbulent times globally speaking, a few briefs thoughts today.

Regardless of the nation in which you live, the one from which you came, your political affiliation, or your religious beliefs, there is a troubling trend – Our world seems to be losing tolerance – an acknowledgement that contrasting viewpoints can come from reasonable, intelligent, good-hearted people.

Musicians and comedians are often capable of incisive, honest commentary on the human condition, made more palpable masked in their chosen artistic medium.

A little insight from a great songwriter on the aforementioned topic:

“Now with the wisdom of years, I try to reason things out

And the only people I fear are those who never have doubts

Save us all from arrogant men, and all the causes they’re for

I won’t be righteous again, I’m not that sure anymore”

~ Billy Joel from “Shades of Grey” off of his album River of Dreams

20140804-001846-1126418.jpg

I took my family to a local restaurant in New Orleans called Felipe’s in the area known as Mid-City recently. Local guitarist Chip Wilson was playing on the patio. Most venues that have music are drinking establishments with age limits, so I’m always pleased to find a rare gem of a venue with live music where I can bring my family.

Chip is one of the good guys of New Orleans music, and a talented, versatile musician. A former luthier who transitioned to mastering the instruments he once produced, Chip is a bluesy, rootsy, jazzy, singer-songwriter with such tremendous command of the instrument. His playing evokes a cycle of inspiration and frustration for six-string layperson wannabes like myself, but I’m mesmerized by the way he engulfs the guitar with his finger-picking style.

When we were ready to leave, I walked back into the restaurant’s bar area and asked for a manager on duty. When he nervously approached, I said, “I just wanted to tell you that I’m always looking for place that I can bring my family to hear live music. I really appreciate you hiring great live musicians.” He thanked me for the feedback.

It’s easy to blame the venues for dwindling support of musicians, and there’s plenty we can criticize. I’m reminded of a viral ad that a restaurant posted for musicians to play for exposure in their restaurant and a musician’s comical reply. There are plenty of musician exploitation stories out there. But for the most part, restaurants and clubs are weighing a business decision – will the money I fork out for live music in my establishment be a good investment?

The truth is that if you don’t let the owner or manager know that you specifically sought out their venue because there was music, they’ll never know. So when there’s a slow season or there’s a downturn in the economy, it’s easy to cut back live music. If it drives more business than the musician’s fee, then not cutting music is a no-brainer.

The one thing every musician needs – supporters who are willing to take action.

So when you appreciate live music, let them know it. Somebody’s living depends on it.

 

Woman-Violin-Clipart-1I know that Music Education Advocacy is a challenging battle.  Sometimes when a boxer takes enough beatings, it’s tough to get up off of the stool to go another round.  But we all know how important that fight is.  So here’s a thought to simplify that effort.  You really only need to answer 3 questions to be effective in music and arts education advocacy efforts:

1. What do you care about?

I know that the music teachers, advocates, and musicians who follow this blog and connect through social media care about music education.  Their love for music and their commitment to their craft are impressive and sincere.  No problem there.

2. Would anybody know it if they met you?

Here’s where many advocates fall short.  I’ve spent most of my professional career in sales and sales management.  One of the simplest definitions I’ve ever heard of sales came from Brian Tracy – Sales is the transfer of enthusiasm from the buyer to the seller.

When I lectured to music teachers during the promotional tour for my book Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music, I perceived a sense of resignation – a belief that the 2nd tier status that music education has generally been assigned relative to other subjects is a given – that the battle has been lost. Not so fast.

It would be a shame if we lost the enthusiasm for our argument just when the odds are turning in our favor. As we’ve discussed previously, the instances of reports and research from credible new sources regarding the connection between music education and career success continue to grow at an encouraging rate.  That certainly was not the case 5 years ago when the book was published.  Link to Web Articles

HERE’S THE GOOD NEWS:  Graduating Music Educators enter their careers armed with the reality that the sensitivities and skillsets of the artist are increasingly in demand in the workplace, even in traditionally “left-brain” industries and careers (well articulated by such author/speakers as Daniel Pink, John Kao, and Sir Ken Robinson).

But it won’t happen without passion – passion that is perceivable from the outside.  There’s always another priority, and generally one that’s worthwhile, that will compete for music and arts education funding if you don’t speak up and let your voice be heard.

Don’t let past disappointment get you down.  It’s a new day in education and in the workplace.

3. What are you willing to do about it?

There’s a wonderful collection of Music Education advocates sharing information and resources online and on social media.  Too often, however, we’re preaching to the choir.  Again using an analogy from my sales, you can only get so much mileage from existing customers.  Yes it’s easier to talk to them and you rarely experience rejection, but eventually, you need to pick up the phone and make a few cold calls.

We need to take the fight to those who aren’t inclined to see things our way.  In Nov. 2013, I helped assemble and moderate a panel of business leaders in the New Orleans community who are also advocates of music education based on the role it played in their lives and careers.  Former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten was asked by a music teacher what she should do at her school to garner support, he instructed her to “assemble a panel like this” for your parents, faculty, and your community.

Keep tabs on your former music students in the community.  Engage them, and have them engage others – people who can make a difference – especially those who need to be enlightened.

And don’t ever give up!


Woman-Violin-Clipart-1You’ve seen and heard the evidence regarding the correlation between music education and math and science scores? That’s a great argument in your music education advocacy efforts – if you’re willing to continue to play second fiddle to other subjects in the hierarchy of education funding. This hypothesis concedes that math and science are top priorities, and that music is only a vehicle to enhance one’s ability to excel in those subjects. While cranberry sauce enhances the taste of turkey at Thanksgiving dinner, in difficult times we’ll do without cranberry sauce, but not without turkey.

I’ll assume that most who follow this blog believe in art for art’s sake. We believe that the arts in general and music specifically enrich our lives. As Winston Churchill once said when told that significant cuts to arts education would be necessary to fund the war efforts, “Then what the heck are we fighting for?” or words to that effect.

Yet when push comes to shove in allocating resources to our learning institutions, those subjects traditionally seen as the primary prerequisites for success in the workplace are given top priority. Art for art’s sake is simply not a compelling enough reason to fund music education programs in times of budget shortfalls.

In the early part of the 20th century, Dale Carnegie taught public speaking classes at the local YMCA for a very modest fee. He was amazed at how many disenchanted technical professionals in industries such as engineering sought out his courses. They had been led to believe throughout their education years that technical proficiency was the key to success. The real world workplace shattered their perception. They quickly learned the reality that softer skills such as communication, collaboration, leadership – dealing with real people with different personalities – were the keys to career advancement and success.  And those are the skills that are so effectviely developed and enhanced through music education.

Besides, many of the technical aspects of the engineering and science fields are being handled by high-speed computers or they are being outsourced overseas. Not that Math and Science are no longer important – they’re just not enough.

Yet there is good news on the horizon. The 21st century workplace is changing, and the skills needed to succeed are changing as well. As articulated by such authors as Daniel Pink, Sir Ken Robinson, and John Kao, the sensitivities of the artist are skills needed in the workplace now more than ever. In the book “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future,” Pink articulates that the ability to create products and services that have a unique genesis or story, make an emotional connection with customers, and have visually appealing attributes have never been in greater demand.

If the world is changing such that the sensitivities and skills of the artist are becoming increasingly necessary to succeed, then why choose a music education advocacy stance that concedes 2nd tier priority? Your thoughts?

WGN Chicago Interview

WGN Chicago Interview

When my book Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music was published in 2009, I believed that as the pace of change in the business world continued to accelerate, the concept of Music & Arts education as prerequisites for success would become more mainstream. Innovation and creativity are skills that must be practiced, developed, and refined. While we’re not there yet, it seems that the instances of testimony and observation regarding that connection are becoming more and more frequent.

Here are a few from news sources around the web:

(FORBES) “These Business Leaders Do Their Jobs Better by Applying Lessons from the Performing Arts”

(HARRIS POLL) “More Americans Believe Music Education Contributes to Career Readiness”

(CTV NEWS OTTAWA) “Canadian Astronaut Touts Benefits of Learning Music”

(MAKING MUSIC MAGAZINE) “A Law Office with a Musical Side”

(CNN) “Everything I Need to Know, I Learned in Music Class” (Hey, that sounds familiar!!!)

(THE GUARDIAN) “Music Graduates are More Employable than You Might Think”

Our Music Education Advocacy army is growing. Stay tuned…

According to an IBM study of 1,500 CEOs conducted in 2010, creativity is the most important quality of 21st Century leaders. Creativity and the creative process are hard to define, and can vary depending upon the nature of the work you are doing.  However, we do know certain characteristics common in creative people:

  1. Woman light bulb1The “Creativity Muscle” – The capacity to be creative is like a muscle – it either strengthens with use or withers with inactivity.  So you want to be creative? Take time to read a book, paint a picture, write a song, or snap a few photos – and do it consistently.  Don’t have time? Close your eyes and visualize something completely from your imagination – a vacation paradise, a fictitious form of transportation, or a prehistoric animal. Do it 5 minutes a day.  Everyday!  (THINK MUSIC AND ARTS EDUCATION ARE A WASTE OF YOUR CHILD’S EDUCATION TIME?  THINK AGAIN!)
  2. If You Believe You’re Creative, You’re Creative – Have you heard the quote, “Those who believe they can and those who believe they can’t are both usually right?” Creativity studies show that people who believe that they are creative tend to be creative. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Besides, we’re all born with the ability to be creative. If you doubt it, watch a group of 4-year olds when a teacher tells them to take out their crayons and a blank sheet of paper.
  3. Be Fearless – Creative people are fearless, and don’t worry about mistakes.  If you’re a manager who tends to have punitive measures in place in your organization, whether formal or informal, you’ll get consistent results from your employees.  Consistently mediocre.  Until the rewards of innovation are greater than the consequences of failure, your organization will never foster creativity.
  4. Awareness – There are ideas all around you.  Do you ever notice them?  Drive down the street.  Every sign you see – someone made the decision which color it should be, where precisely it should be located, and the font of the lettering.  Most great ideas are spawned by simple observations.  If you’re sleepwalking through life, you’ll never make them.  That cashier at the convenience store where you stopped for coffee this morning – what was her name (she had a nametag, I’ll bet), what was she wearing, what color was her hair, and how many people were in the store at the time…See what I mean.
  5. Reset Button – In his book The War of Art author Steven Pressfield discusses the mindset of the artist.  Paraphrasing – the artist doesn’t define his or herself by a particular piece of work.  They understand that it’s just one item and tomorrow there will be another blank canvass, ball of clay, music manuscript paper, etc.  Some efforts will be better than others, but it’s just a process.  Like a cornerback in football who just gave up a touchdown pass or a pitcher who gave up a home run, shake it off… AND GET BACK TO WORK!

 

If you’re not from New Orleans or haven’t lived here for an extended period, it’s hard to articulate how wonderful the environment is among musicians here, particularly the fellowship and the way they nurture young artists and share the message of the joy of music education.

But let me try.

Several years ago I noticed in the newspaper one Saturday morning that Delfeayo Marsalis (trombonist of the famous Marsalis family) was holding “Cool School,” a session for young kids explaining and illustrating what jazz was all about through story and performance. I entered the small daycare facility and found myself in the presence of about 15 children, a dozen or so parents, and six world-class musicians. I couldn’t help but think that people in New York would line up in droves to watch a program like this. It’s both a blessing and a curse that our expectations of accessibility to great music is so high that we don’t even bat an eye that such a performance is available in such an intimate setting.

A few years later I visited the iconic music club Tipitina’s in New Orleans for the Tipitina’s Foundation Sunday music workshop. Again, 3 world-class musicians – Tony Dagradi (sax), Johnny Vidacovich (drums), and Roland Guerin (bass) played, and this time they mentored young musicians.  The format of the workshop is that the trio performs a couple of tunes as an intro, and then invite children onto the stage to join them.  About 15-20 kids joined the kids with various instruments in hand joined in. The musicians provided a brief tutorial on a simple 3-chord blues, and off they went.

As Sales and Marketing Rep. at LAFARGUE PIANOS, I hear over and over stories of parents who bring in their children for music lessons because they themselves weren’t fortunate enough to play an instrument. Either their parents didn’t believe it was important, they couldn’t afford lessons, the school they went to didn’t have a program or considered it non-essential, they tried but didn’t take music lessons seriously and later regretted it, or they simply never took the initiative. In any case, they make great sacrifices of both time and money to open the door to music for their children.

As we struggle with diminishing resources allocated to music education, kudos to all of the musicians, non-profits, and parents who are helping to fill in the gaps.

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