Practice makes perfect

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Use music to exercise your child’s creativity

By Michael Kull

Just minutes before I walked out on stage to sing in public for the first time, I remembered a trick that I had heard to combat stage fright: “Imagine that everyone in the audience is sitting there in their underwear!” It was supposed to help me feel more confident, because I would surely feel better in my clothes than all those people sitting uncomfortably in their seats. The truth is that, at the time, I would have felt more comfortable standing on stage in my underwear than I did at that moment getting ready to sing.

Not many activities in life can cause as much anxiety as opening one’s mouth and singing in front of others, especially if you are the only one doing it. Interestingly, there are so many other activities that are far more complex than singing that people undertake everyday without giving a second thought. Actions such as swinging a golf club, driving a car, balancing a checkbook, all are infinitely more complicated than opening one’s mouth to sing.

These other activities are not typically associated with creativity. They seem more mechanical in nature. But singing, especially when it is performed well, is recognized as a purely creative act. Those who sing are regarded as artists and are revered for their creativity. One may drive a car without being creative, and nobody will care. On the other hand, if one sings without being creative, people will notice that something important is missing.

 

“…when one is called on to be creative, it can feel like an impossible task, not because it isn’t there, but because it hasn’t been exercised regularly.”

 

All artists must learn the mechanics of their art form before they can perform. They have to become expert at the activity just like learning to drive a car requires developing a specific set of skills. For any artist, though, creativity is always considered a fundamental and necessary ingredient in the mix. It is a simple ingredient. You don’t have to study it to have it. There is no wrong way to have it. Creativity is within everyone, whether anyone chooses to use it or not, but for creativity to be authentic and real, it must come from within a person’s own inner world. It has to come from their essence or spirit, or, if you like, soul.

The fact that so much of daily life does not demand creativity in order to be sufficiently performed means that the beautiful wellspring of creativity remains untapped and even unrecognized. Then, when one is called on to be creative, it can feel like an impossible task, not because it isn’t there, but because it hasn’t been exercised regularly.

I have been teaching a high school teen voice lessons for over a year now. When he started, he had that “deer in the headlights” look about him before he opened his mouth to sing. I could see that the moment of truth, the moment for him to be truly creative was a scary proposition. He wanted to sing, so he was willing to try. My task was to convince him that the only way to succeed in singing was to take a risk, to go ahead and dip into that deep well of creativity that was just waiting to be used. Over time, he became more and more confortable with “giving his creativity a voice.” He started to sing. He is now off to college as a voice major, but before he left the studio for the last time, he thanked me for the lessons, and said, “Even more than voice lessons, you have taught me about life. Thank you.” He will always have his own creativity at his disposal, not matter what activity he does.

That’s the real beauty of creativity. Learning to sing is a concentrated way to get to know one’s creativity, because singing only works when creativity is present. But once a person has gotten in touch with creativity, that simple and honest impulse can be applied to any activity, whether it is related to the arts or not. Even balancing a checkbook can become a creative act, if one can access that spark. This is why introducing a child to a creative art is so important for that child’s overall development. He or she might really take to the activity, say playing piano or singing, and decide to make a career of it. But even if your child doesn’t make the arts a lifelong pursuit, learning to access the spark of creativity will add fulfillment to any task or job. On life’s performance stage, the child who has learned to access creativity in everything he or she does, will be able to give something special and unique to the world, whether or the audience is fully clothed or not.

Michael Kull, in addition to co-publishing Knoxville Parent, is a classically trained singer. He has performed with orchestras and choruses around the country and in Europe and maintains a private vocal studio in Knoxville.

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