Happy Birthday, Jack

From a violinist in the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra regarding Porgy and Bess:
Happy Birthday Jack- you played the Xylophone part like nobody so far has played it in the Atlanta Symphony. I will never forget this virtuoso and precise playing. Gershwin decided to add the xylophone to double the first violin section that always has been a challenge from the first performance of this great work and until today!! 

https://www.facebook.com/JAB3626/posts/145598702846450

Juan R. Ramírez Hernández is a violinist with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, a celebrated composer, and Founder and Artistic Director of the Atlanta Virtuosi Foundation, Inc. Under the auspices of this Foundation, he founded the Buckhead Youth Orchestra and Casa de la Cultura-Atlanta, both in residence at Covenant Presbyterian Church. This season marks his 14th year as Artistic Director and Conductor of the Atlanta Community Symphony Orchestra. 

 

 

Learning to be Creative

Learning to be creative : The process of learning is a creative process

In the next few moments, I will try to rekindle you – by attempting to help you understand a little more about yourself and how to learn creatively.
Had I studied the topics of Learning and Creativity extensively before presenting this lecture, you would be offered many sophisticated definitions and interpretations. However, what you are about to be given, and hopefully accept, is based on my life experiences and is a result of personal applications.
Introductory Comments
During your college years, it is often difficult for you to see and understand yourself clearly. Perhaps you are too close to yourself, trapped in your own illusions. Or perhaps you are too far away from yourself, lost in your dreams.
When you understand more about who you are, how you learn, and what you might become, you have a better chance of breaking away from the repetitious patterns or habits of your past.
Do you realize that your learned habits are often too subtle for you to recognize and yet, at the same time, are too powerful for you to change!
As students, musicians… people – real self-knowledge or learning about yourself is not just a matter of chance. It is a matter of your choices – determined by what you learn, what you say, what you do, and whom you trust.
Let’s talk about learning more about yourself, by discovering how you learn something new… and in a creative way. First, you can’t get excited about learning something new until the spirit of learning propels you. Feeling excited about learning prompts more learning, which in turn leads to greater excitement. Thus, the learning experience is a continuum – constantly reinforcing itself. To reduce life to a simple truth: “You are what you have learned!”
So, how do you learn? What motivates you to learn? What interferes with your learning process? You take in information through all of your senses, but at college, most of your learning occurs through your auditory, visual, or kinesthetic channels. For most of you, one or two of those sensory channels are more efficient than the others.
If you are a visual learner:
You remember best what you see.
You put information into visual forms.
You often write things down or draw pictures to help yourself understand and remember.
If you are an auditory learner:
You remember best what you hear and say yourself.
You enjoy class discussions.
You are easily distracted by noise.
You need to talk through new learning.
If you are a kinesthetic learner:
You remember best what you do and experience.
You have difficulty sitting still for long periods of time and are easily distracted.
You find or would like to find ways to move about in the classroom.
You lose interest when you are not actively involved.
Ok, now we have learned a little about learning. What about creativity? I say Learning to be Creative is the act of making something ‘extra-ordinary’ or extraordinary out of the ordinary.
My students in Developing Rhythmic Sensitivity have said:
“Creativity is the unique ability to add to the ordinary an inventive, imaginative flair and thus make something new and unusual.”
“Creativity is the means whereby a performer establishes an interpretive style and expresses his own individuality through music.”
“Those in the fine arts and humanities are concerned with creating beauty and with expressing, studying, and preserving ideas and culture values. Students should leave our schools with their creative abilities aglow. Creativity implies that leap of imagination and understanding which enables individuals to grow in dignity and purpose in the world. Creativity also implies the ability on the part of the creator to carry others with him in the endless quest for insight…”
I have found that being creative requires sweat producing energy and enormous amounts of new learning to take place. Creating something new often involves changing a small segment of the way the world is … not an easy thing to do. For instance, my change from the ASO to GSU started with an undefined awareness, a vague feeling, and an urging that something needed to change. That became a thought – one of the most powerful forces in the universe– a thought must be nurtured and developed and worked out. The thought became an intention and intentionally became an action – which lead to the change… it took over 5 years!

Learning: to be Creative
The 3 areas to consider as I attempt to bind Learning and Creativity:
Enabling Skills
Enabling Conditions
Thought Processes
Under Enabling Skills, you will see the following categories:
Aptitude – Present abilities
Flexibility –  Willingness to change
Extensiveness – Invested time
Conceptual Understanding – Factual knowledge
Originality – Taking a chance
Craftsmanship – Attention to details
Sensitivity – Ability to internalize
As you see, each category is accompanied by a few key words to help you remember what I am about to say. And, to a degree, the listed order is progressive – one must occur for the next to take place – you may want to change the order – that’s ok.
Aptitude
When you are about to learn something new you must, at that point, be aware of your level of ability, your present level of competency, your capacity to learn, and of course, your talents.
Flexibility
Flexibility has to do with your willingness to try to make a change in your life in order to learn something new or to adopt something new. It is your ability to be influenced or persuaded to change from a prior, wrong (or weak) concept.
Extensiveness
Extensiveness is a developed enabling skill based upon the amount of time or, as a musician, practice you are willing to invest in self-improvement. How hard are you willing to try in order to learn something new?
Conceptual Understanding
Knowledge or factual understanding is absolutely necessary in order for you to achieve a successful application of your newly acquired information. Definitions and a working vocabulary are a good starting point.
Originality
Be it music or art, theater or dance, originality hinges on taking a chance. Choices, alternatives, failures, or doubt… be a person who works all of them out!
Craftsmanship
Craftsmanship requires absolute attention to all details. It is your ability to carefully use your new knowledge. If you are only a ‘big picture’ person and ignore the details – life will ‘catch’ you!
Sensitivity
Sensitivity as an enabling skill is your ability to internalize deeply and accurately what you have learned. In music, it will allow you to both read and demonstrate the deepest levels of your personal musical understanding.

Attention to detail affects the verification part of thought processes as part of Learning: To Be Creative. I will look at that in a moment.
Enabling Conditions
In addition to personal enabling skills, there are a number of influences or enabling conditions that might mingle with your skills in delicate and complicated ways. The following are 3 Enabling Conditions:
Personality – self-identity / self-awareness
Your personality attributes contribute significantly to the enabling of your skills. (A-G above)
Are you spontaneous and open? Do you have a sense of humor? Do you prefer to keep things simple or do you make life complex? Have you established your self-identity to the point that life’s difficult questions can be answered with a yes or no/ (Me either)
Motivations – reactions and personal drive
Motivation is a host of psychological factors that influence your reactions and drives. When learning something new it allows or stops you from ‘staying on task’.
Environment – surroundings / circumstances
Environment includes the characteristics that define both a learning atmosphere – is the room too cold or too hot- and your own personal requirements for wellbeing- financial resources, family conditions, and personal relationships or even peer pressure.
Thought Processes
In Learning: To Be Creative these concepts are my favorites. Let’s talk about four concepts as students at college.
Preparation
Preparation would mean, in part, gathering all class lectures and textbook information- getting organized and memorized. Practicing would mean as much as necessary to ‘get the job done right’!
Incubation
Incubation is a period of subconscious imagery: mental activity that occurs apart from your conscious mind. It is ‘problem solving’ mental activity occurring while you are occupied consciously with other concerns. It is your mind’s way of working through what you have experienced in preparation. It can occur only after adequate preparation.
Illumination
The ‘Eureka’ or ‘Aha’ moment when your hard work appears to all come together. Now you understand! Now you can do it!
Verification
Time and testing and more testing and time will tell if you are really right – if you have really learned properly. That’s why music schools have a faculty! If your preparation was wrong – incubation still takes place, illumination still occurs- but you learned wrong from the beginning – you didn’t think, watch or listen carefully enough. Now you must ‘re’- rethink, reconsider, refine, rewrite, replay, reconceptualize,… re-do!
Well, Learning: To Be Creative, as you have now learned, requires absolute persistence and determination on your part. All our lives hang on a very thin thread. The cancer of time is complacency. What you can dream, you can learn to do – begin it now!
Remember, feeling excited about learning prompts more learning which in turn leads to greater excitement and the learning experience becomes a continuum – constantly reinforcing itself.

Jack Bell