One of the things that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is how the education system is failing to build humans who are in touch with their deep creative selves. We spend 12-18 years in institutions that are highly focussed on developing linear, analytical, black and white thinking, then wonder why so few of us are willing to step outside the box and pursue our dreams. We spend so much time learning that every question has one and only one correct answer that by the time we get to be adults are imaginations are a poor stunted excuse for the glorious tools they once were. Basically, I think that the vast majority of people in our society are afflicted with a self-consciousness that doesn’t allow them to be themselves in a genuine way. More thoughts along these lines can be found here.
So with that in mind, I was super excited to have the opportunity fall in my lap to do a Spring Break Music Camp for children aged 5-8 at the Beaumont Studios in Vancouver. They actually contacted me after seeing some of my content online and wanted me to put together a program for them. I tellya, it made me feel like a legitimate self-employed artist XD
So I said yes to something that was very much outside my comfort zone and experience, because it would give me the opportunity to start working on getting at kids early before they have a chance to develop the preconceptions that kill so many people’s creativity… “I’m not talented”, “I can’t understand theory”, “Music is for experts”, etc. etc. etc. We would make Music using tin cans, and drinking straws, and water jugs, and glass jars… Anything that was readily at hand that could be used to make a sound was fair game. I wanted them to come away with the unspoken idea that Music belongs to them, and they can do whatever they want with it. There are no wrong answers.
Of course, reality fell a little bit short of my lofty aspirations (it often does and that’s OK). I spent a lot of the time trying to prevent kids from climbing down the laundry chute, chewing on the carpet, or using drum sticks as primitive weapons. I was envisioning “Stomp meets School Band”, and it was a little closer to “Kindergarten Cop meets Lord of The Flies”.
OK, maybe not that bad. All in all, we had a super fun time despite the chaos, and I learned a lot about teaching kids how to be Musical, rather than how to play Mary Had A Little Lamb.
One of the big things that I learned, that I think applies to the rest of Life, is the way that what you pay attention to multiplies. When one kid was being a nuisance (climbing up the curtains, trying to eat their shoes, putting various objects up their nose, or what-have-you), it did absolutely no good to single that kid out and tell them “Don’t do that.” The only result this kind of attention gave was to encourage the culprit to continue, and even encourage others to follow suit. When one kid was misbehaving, 90% of the time the solution was to single out a kid who was engaged and praise them for being so attentive. It required a shift of attitude and awareness, but when I could pull it off it worked well.
I think this technique is applicable on a larger scale (how you do anything is how you do everything, after all). Rather than looking at our lives, and trying to force the elements that we don’t like into a more pleasing shape, much of the time it is probably better to look at what is working and do more of it. As the parts that are working expand, they will naturally tend to edge out or convert the things that aren’t. For instance, I spent years and years railing against the shitty day jobs that I worked. I would spend 8 hours a day thinking “What the fuck am I doing with my Life? Why am I here? How can I be making Music right now?” But as I made Music more and more of a central priority in my Life, the shitty day jobs became less and less of a necessity. Obviously there are some situations that you need to change before anything else can really work (get out of that un-fulfilling relationship, get some exercise instead of sitting on the couch all day), but a lot of the time, the way we frame our reality to ourselves has a huge impact on how we experience it.
Anyway, I digress! Here’s a video of a percussion jam with some small children!