In 2008, I conducted a series of interviews with music educators, professionals, musicians, and advocates articulating the universal benefits of music education and participation. One of the most memorable of those discussions was with Dave Wish, founder and Executive Director of the non-profit, “Little Kids Rock.” LKR provides musical instruments and instruction to at-risk kids and teachers.
Great points made by Dave that should be staples of any music enthusiast’s/advocate’s discussions!
Virtually every creativity expert concurs – all children are creative, yet we often lose our capacity for creativity as we get older and diminish our creative activities. That brings us to today’s music and arts education advocacy quote of the day:
“Creativity is like a muscle. It gets stronger with use, and withers with inactivity. If we cut music and arts education funding, where will our children exercise?”
- Craig M. Cortello
This article by Ronnie Sanders, a member of the fine arts faculty at Jefferson High School in San Antonio and an appointee to a sub-Committee of the Texas Commission on the Arts, echoes the sentiments we express here often on the benefits of music and arts education. My takeaways and key points included:
- “The arts do not exist simply to perform; the arts exist to transform.” (great line!)
- “We use music to make better students who are ready to use the skills they learn in fine arts classes in order make a significant contribution in a global economy of thinkers, creators and problem-solvers.”
- “Far from being superfluous, the arts are now regarded as a necessary component of a well-rounded quality education.”
- “Our children are not mere statistics or cold, calculated averages. At the core of every student is a heart with a desire to excel in life — and the arts are here to help them accomplish their dreams!”
Read the entire article at MySanAntonio.com
10 BUSINESS MEETING CREATIVITY IDEAS
by Craig M. Cortello (Article available for reprint with author and website acknowledgment)
Developing an innovative spirit in the workplace doesn’t require extraordinary measures. Managers can experiment with simple ideas that merely break routines, allowing your employees permission to drop the façade that we all don to some degree when we punch the clock. Here are a few ideas that will help you lighten things up for your staff and get their creative juices flowing, if you have the courage to take the leap:
1. Dart Board
Start every staff meeting by allowing everyone a shot at the dart board. Best shot gets to kick off the meeting, appoint the moderator, or tell what they did over the weekend. Starts things off on a playful note and gets your people out of their chairs. For safety purposes, stick with the magnetic or Velcro variety.
2. Colored Markers for the Flip Chart
Sounds simple, but we are programmed from an early age to correlate the amalgamation of colors with the awakening of our imaginations. If you need further evidence of this phenomenon, observe a classroom full of first graders the next time a teacher instructs them to put away their math books and take out their crayons. And experts agree that the key to creativity lies in the ability to awaken the child inside each of us.
3. Music Creativity
Ask each team member to write a 4-line verse to a song that relates to their job duties, hobbies, business ideas, etc. Go around the room and ask them to sing, rap, or simply recite (military cadence perhaps) their verse. Print the compilation in the next company newsletter to get a little PR for your department or office (others in the organization might want to transfer in when they realize that you’ve given your staff permission to have fun).
4. Music Creativity II
Ask your staff to bring in a CD with a song that describes their personality, work attitude, or how their weekend went. Play excerpts before the meeting for a laugh.
5. To Serve Mankind
Ask your staff to convey what they did over the weekend that was a service to another person, charitable organization, or noble cause. Vote to determine whose action was most heroic and award a gift certificate to the winner, let them leave work early on Friday, or take a longer than usual lunch break. This will encourage your staff to think of new ways to develop a sense of community. It will also help your people feel good about their co-workers, get to know them better, and give them a sense of pride in the organization.
6. Vocabulary Expansion
Ask your team to bring a rarely used or obscure word to the next meeting. Have them use it in a context that is applicable to your business.
7. Memory Exercise
Read a list of 10 or 15 things, preferably something related to your business, your industry, or to a customer and give an award to the person who can commit the most items to memory. This exercise can help your staff become more familiar with your organization and with your customers. Memory development is also a key to developing new customer relationships that will help your business prosper.
8. “If I Ran This Place…”
Ask your staff what they would consider the ideal job, the ideal workplace, and the ideal location. You can’t transform your place into utopia, but you might gain some insight into feasible, marginal changes that will improve things. Now that you have them thinking without barriers, ask them what they would do first or different if they ran the company, office, or department. This one takes some courage and is not without risk, but you’ll be surprised by the answers.
9. Show and Tell
Have your staff bring something that they’ve created, that they are proud of, or from their childhood that the group would find interesting or funny. Demonstrate an interesting or unusual talent, perhaps. We loved this game when we were in kindergarten, and for some reason they made us stop playing as we got older.
10. Top 10 Lists
Until David Letterman decides to pursue intellectual property infringement, go ahead and try this one. Give a topic at your staff meeting, and ask for the answers the following week. Remember to keep it clean and non-offensive. Have your staff rank the answers and use a point system to determine the winner.
We would never ask our employees for quality without offering the resources, direction, systems, and commitment to develop procedures that ensure improvement in that area. Yet we ask employees for creativity or to “think outside the box” all of the time without giving another thought as to how to initiate the creative process. Take the first step and give your staff permission to shake things up a bit at your office. You’re likely to see some changes – for the better!
As a lifelong musician, music advocate, and music writer, I weighed the importance of avoiding the temptation to be an overbearing parent with the desire that my only child would follow suit and take up an instrument. A small piano, another keyboard, an assortment of guitars, and a willing mentor in the house provided a nurturing environment. When he finally came to me at the age of 9 or 10 and expressed an interest in trumpet or drums, we drove to a nearby music store. A few licks on the drums brought a smile to his face, and we were off and running.
The first 6 months he seemed enthusiastic. The ensuing 6 months required frequent reminders that practice was necessary, and the final 6 months were torture – for both of us. Lectures about the importance of commitment, the cost of drums and lessons, etc., etc., etc.
I came to the realization that perhaps his arts education journey would be different from mine. I told him that I would support whatever he wanted to pursue, and that we could take a music hiatus for the summer while he played baseball and also pursued his newfound joy – photography. At the end of the summer, we wanted a decision before continuing.
When the summer was over, he came to us and said that he had decided that photography was really what he enjoyed. We committed to him that we would match whatever amount of money he saved on his own to put toward a nice camera. And for the last couple of years, it’s clear that he has the photography (or shutter) bug.
Some parents are more demanding than others, and the recent buzz about “Tiger Moms” has rekindled the discussion about how strong a hand parents should rule with. Of course, there’s still no blueprint to parenthood. It’s still an art more than a science, in my estimation.
Lesson: One of my concerns with standardized testing and the pressure that kids face at such an early age is that childhood should be a time of exploration, not of narrowing their focus. Expose your kids to a world of possibilities and they will choose to narrow their path when it’s appropriate – and they’ll have the benefit of making an informed decision.
There are obviously many challenges still ahead for these parents of one. But if my pride in my 13 year-old son’s work is any indication of the job I’ve done as a parent, then I guess things will turn out okay. Here’s a sample of work from Michael Cortello, aspiring New Orleans Photographer:
It’s interesting that technology is allowing more and more people access to musicianship than ever before, a topic we’ve address here before in a previous video post. Some might not consider technology-enabled musicians true musicians in the purest sense, but that’s not the point. By lowering the bar of entry with technology, we enable more people to experience the joy of creating music. By increasing that pool of potential musicians, everybody wins. Some will pursue traditional instruments on a more serious level, and some will stick to their musical “toys,” but all will develop an appreciation and love for the possibilities that music has for enhancing our lives.
Here’s a musical instrument designed by a Scottish company to make music accessible to special education students called the “Skoog.”
I sometimes wonder why there aren’t more testimonials from leaders from a variety of professions who were influenced by music education. Why don’t they speak out more often and more publicly regarding the benefits of music education. I certainly didn’t have any trouble finding plenty of successful business leaders willing to tell me their stories when I wrote my book. One possible answer is that they don’t have a proper, organized forum.
This Canadian website, The Coalition for Music Education, has a Gallery of Champions of musicians and professionals influenced by music education. Not a bad idea.
Link to the Gallery of Champions website
(scroll down to play the audio testimonials)