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Is Creativity the New Buzz Word in Modern Music Teaching?

By Tim Topham | Creativity

May 20

Modern Music Teaching

I’ve been blogging about more creative approaches to modern music teaching and education since 2010.

Eight years ago, there wasn’t much information about this idea online.

Most teachers taught in a similar way (and often how they themselves were taught) focusing their teaching on reading, interpreting the masters and performing from memory. Oh, and exams, of course!

I want to share with you today some thoughts from an article I read last year, and let you decide how they relate to modern music teaching.

Creativity and What it Means

Nowadays, everything is creative.

And yes, perhaps I’ve contributed to this in our field.

But that doesn’t mean it’s just another buzz word. I honestly believe the core meaning of being creative is how we can become better teachers, and change the future of modern music teaching.

I was reading a really interesting article entitled: The great creativity turn-off  in the Good Weekend magazine from late year, found in The Age newspaper here in Melbourne, by Shelley Gare.

It was all about whether the word creativity had lost its impact given its ubiquity in…everything!

Here are some key thoughts.

There’s never been more talk of innovation and creativity, yet they’ve never been harder to find. Could the corporate co-opting of these terms be the very cause of their decline?
‘Innovation’ and ‘creativity’ (the latter means producing something both original and effective) have been joined in their new lives by other once beautiful, emotive words: ideas, knowledge, imagination, passion. They’re imprisoned as business buzz terms their use, is a ‘peak hype’.
On interviewing a TV writer in the article, Bevan Lee…
When Lee talks about his creativity, he describes it as 20% magic “and I don’t know where that comes from”, 30% craft and 50% sheer hard slog. I didn’t create my first show until I’d done 18 years.
Quoting Steve jobs…
Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something… That’s because they were able to connect experience they’ve had and synthesise new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.
On creative traits…
Intense focus, passion for what is being worked on, rigour, master of the basics so there is a foundation of knowledge (interviewees stress this repeatedly), spontaneity, an openness to one’s own inner life and emotions, a questioning, curious outlook and the courage to be independent.
Talking to Sydney Neurosurgeon Richard Parkinson…
How important is it? “It’s everything. It’s how I solve problems”. “The foundation of all brilliance is seeing connections when no one else does, ” he stresses. As I leave, he rounds up. “Creativity is so important. It’s the only thing that matters.”
Nick Crocker, Melbourne partner in Blackbird Venutres, who backed Canva, says this.
Crocker stresses people need to stop thinking of creativity as if it’s something beautiful, aspirational. ‘It’s about trying something…working out why it didn’t work…fixing it, trying again…working out why it didn’t work…fixing it again… It’s stepping into a deep pool. It’s changeable, uncertain, it takes longer than you think. You’re never really happy. There’s always fighting and scrapping… That’s what real creativity looks like.

What Does it Mean for Teachers?

Creativity is about opening up our minds, finding connections in our teaching, and inspiring our students in a way that hasn’t been done before.

It’s why I have been talking about this topic for eight years – it’s about imparting a love for music, educating in a holistic, fun and engaging way.

Working to exams can be tiresome, and that’s not what we want for our students.

Being open, spontaneous, but also setting down that foundation of knowledge is easily transferable into the music studio.

Once we set those building blocks with our students, the only thing stopping us is our imagination.

Get Creative in Your Studio

I have a range of resources to help you get creative – why not start here with my Top 10 Pop Songs for Piano Students. 

If you’re just getting used to the idea of being creative, I always like to offer teachers my 20 Creative Ways to Start a Piano Lesson worksheet.

It’s a number of easy ways to start off a lesson creatively, without reinventing the wheel.

Just enter your details below and we will send you the worksheet for free.

Want More Help?

My Inner Circle community is where hundreds of teachers join forces to work collaboratively and constructively to grow their teaching methods.

A membership gives you…

  • Instant access to entire Academy Course library including No Book Beginners, 4 Chord Composing, Studio Marketing, Teaching the Blues + many more
  • 100s of lesson plans, quick-win videos, PDFs and downloads
  • Access to expert teachers from around the world
  • Stream teaching videos and webinar replays
  • Access everything on your dedicated member app for iOS and Android
  • Grab members-only discounts on sheet music, software and method books

And most of all, help you on your creative teaching journey.

If you’d like more details on a membership, click on the button below.

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Tim Topham

About the Author

Tim Topham has one mission in life: to stem the tide of children quitting music lessons by helping teachers maximise student engagement through creativity, technology and innovation. Tim hosts the popular Creative Piano Teaching Podcast, blogs regularly at topmusic.co and speaks at local and international conferences on topics such as pedagogy, business, marketing and entrepreneurship. Tim has been featured in American Music Teacher, The Piano Teacher Magazine, Californian Music Teacher and EPTA Piano Professional. Tim holds an MBA in Educational Leadership, BMus, DipEd and AMusA.