Creativity With No Limitations

Recently I had the opportunity of addressing 2 classes at my former high school – Waterdown District High. It’s always fun for me to return and this was my third year visiting. Although the classes are different each year I like to personalize my comments to the grade and subject. This year it was grade 9 music and drama. As I did my research a theme began to appear – “No Limitations”

Here are some excerpts from my talk with some additional thoughts.

Shakespeare said;

“If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it; that surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.”

Music and drama are so important in our lives; the Arts enrich our day to day experiences and make us better people. We have more empathy and awareness of our fellow human beings and become more connected to the world around us.

Yet being an artist isn’t always valued so as adults we begin to put limitations on ourselves. Always looking to put things into perspective I came across this article by Andrew Littlefield who is a board certified music therapist, with additional training in neurological music therapy and neonatal intensive care unit music therapy

For many of my students (special needs) and adults, our automatic tendency is to view them by their limitations. As a music therapist, I have the privilege to bring music and creative activities to individuals who don’t typically get to experience them. By putting a person into a role where they’re creating, you have to view them not by their limitations, but by their potential.

There’s no clearer example of this than the case of Derek Paravicini, (blinded from oxygen given to him when he was born at 25 weeks and who also has autism and is a savant who is a brilliant musician ) who shows us that true intelligence is not necessarily dressed as an eloquent speaker, a master net worker, or a wordsmith. Sometimes a true creative thinker doesn’t fit into societal norms. Sometimes their brains are wired a little differently. Sometimes they interpret the world differently than most individuals do. But when you give them a chance to flex their creative potential, you can be sure that you’ll see beyond any perceived limitations.

Andrew Littlefield

As a long time dance and drama teacher I have always felt that you have to see what people can become – not where they are right now. Some of my most talented students have not necessarily shown that – but they have passion and desire and so they excel.

New research suggests that musicians may be at their most creative when they are not playing their instrument or singing. By studying musicians and asking them when inspiration struck them, researchers found that breakthrough moments often happened when players were humming to themselves or tapping out rhythms on the table or imagining dance moves inspired by the music.

“What we are finding is that even fairly mundane activities can feed in to the discovery of new insight, new knowledge and new means of expressing ideas in all sorts of ways,” said John Rink, professor of musical performance studies at Cambridge University. “The potential is infinite.”

Paul McCartney who was already quite famous as a Beatle woke up in the middle of the night and wrote down a melody that was playing in his mind. As it came so easy to him he assumed that he must have heard it somewhere. He gave it the working title “Scrambled eggs”

“I just fell out of bed and it was there,” McCartney told Rod Granger of The Hollywood Reporter. “I have a piano by the side of my bed and just got up and played the chords. I thought I must have heard it the night before or something, and spent about three weeks asking all the music people I knew, ‘What is this song?’ I couldn’t believe I’d written it.”

That song was “Yesterday”

Why is Paul McCartney so creative – why was the partnership of Lennon and McCartney so fruitful? Is it karma? Can it be duplicated?

Can creativity be taught or do we have to be born with it?

I love Ted Talks- it stands for technology, design and education

I find them very inspirational and while I am taking a walk I listen to one of these talks and I am always fascinated by how people found their inspiration and how they continue to feed it.

One of my favorites by Sir Kenneth Robinson is about children and creativityken_robinson1

I have abbreviated his comments but the full talk can be found here.

I heard a great story recently — I love telling it — of a little girl who was in a drawing lesson. She was six and she was at the back, drawing, and the teacher said this little girl hardly ever paid attention, and in this drawing lesson she did. The teacher was fascinated and she went over to her and she said, “What are you drawing?” And the girl said, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” And the teacher said, “But nobody knows what God looks like.” And the girl said, “They will in a minute.” 

When my son was four James got the part of Joseph, which we were thrilled about. We considered this to be one of the lead parts. We had the place crammed full of agents in T-shirts: “James Robinson IS Joseph!” (Laughter) He didn’t have to speak, but you know the bit where the three kings come in. They come in bearing gifts, and they bring gold, frankincense and myrrh. This really happened. We were sitting there and I think they just went out of sequence, because we talked to the little boy afterward and we said, “You OK with that?” And he said, “Yeah, why? Was that wrong?” They just switched, that was it. Anyway, the three boys came in — four-year-olds with tea towels on their heads — and they put these boxes down, and the first boy said, “I bring you gold.” And the second boy said, “I bring you myrrh.” And the third boy said, “Frank sent this.”

What these things have in common is that kids will take a chance. If they don’t know, they’ll have a go. Am I right? They’re not frightened of being wrong. Now, I don’t mean to say that being wrong is the same thing as being creative. What we do know is, if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original — if you’re not prepared to be wrong. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong.

He also relates the story of Gillian Lynne who is a famous choreographer, most notably for the musical “Cats”

Gillian and I had lunch one day and I said, “Gillian, how’d you get to be a dancer?” And she said it was interesting; when she was at school, she was really hopeless. And the school, in the ’30s, wrote to her parents and said, “We think Gillian has a learning disorder.” She couldn’t concentrate; she was fidgeting. I think now they’d say she had ADHD.

Anyway, she went to see this specialist. So, this oak-paneled room, and she was there with her mother ,and she was led and sat on this chair at the end, and she sat on her hands for 20 minutes while this man talked to her mother about all the problems Gillian was having at school. And at the end of it — because she was disturbing people; her homework was always late; and so on, little kid of eight — in the end, the doctor went and sat next to Gillian and said, “Gillian, I’ve listened to all these things that your mother’s told me, and I need to speak to her privately.” He said, “Wait here. We’ll be back; we won’t be very long and they went and left her. But as they went out the room, he turned on the radio that was sitting on his desk. And when they got out the room, he said to her mother, “Just stand and watch her.” And the minute they left the room, she said, she was on her feet, moving to the music. And they watched for a few minutes and he turned to her mother and said, “Mrs. Lynne, Gillian isn’t sick; she’s a dancer. Take her to a dance school.”

Picasso once said this – “all children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up”.

Robinson goes on to say, “I believe this passionately, that we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out if it.

I have been given a great gift to be to be involved in the arts for a career – I hope I never out grow it.


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