What Fuels Creativity?

We all seem to be born with creativity. As a young boy I remember being curious about everything. Just playing in my front yard was an exciting adventure. Teaching for just around 20 years has led me to believe that the Prussian school system most institutions use may in fact diminish creativity. I started out thinking that everyone could learn guitar in the same way. Using the sort of rogue learning system we had during our school years. “Here’s the information students, now memorize it and we will move on to the next lesson”. What I soon learned was without application or context, we might as well have been memorizing the phone book.

I could see the wonder and excitement for learning the instrument slowly begin to fade in each students eyes. I could sense the students began to associate learning the guitar as just an extension of school. I almost felt like I made sure they would never play again, rather than share the love and gift of music. I thought to myself, how does one teach someone to play the guitar. Is it even possible?

I began to try different ways of approaching the matter. I noticed a colleague of mine was holding more students than any other teacher. What was his secret? I had to find out! His name was David, a tall lanky kid with a surfer like demeanor. Was it that he was just so cool his students wanted to be like him? When asking him his methods he never really said what he did or didn’t do. I started to listen to his lessons secretly through the door. He never used a book, no formal plans, nothing was traditional about the way he taught. But he did try and find what they loved about music and why they chose guitar.  In philosophy nature is referred to as “wiggly”. When I think of a child I think the same thing. A child is all over the place. It seemed David was mirroring that in his approach to teaching.

After thinking about David and his method of teaching, he seemed to create an atmosphere conducive to learning the guitar rather than a direct lecture of it. Think video games, most kids become masters at them, without school or teachers. The games become so appealing to kids because they represent something that is full of imagination, something that needs to be discovered. So.. how do they learn without instruction? Like David, the games create an environment that craves to be discovered and mastered. Kids think that the game is a world of endless possibility. Something to be explored, no rules. It seems children do not like limits. The good news is there are no limits in music. David taught the guitar with his students understating this.

After 20 years of teaching I realized In order to successfully inspire someone to develop a passion for their instrument of choice, one has to allow the student to learn what they love through creating an environment with no limits. Spend less time on rules and more on application. Putting more emphasis on failure than mastery. Making a connection through the ear rather than the eye. As Einstein put it “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

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