Music, Creativity and Work
by Doug Hanvey

In the eighth grade, my social studies class was assigned to write an essay about the American Revolution. Instead of following the instructions like my classmates, I wrote a creative story about Paul Revere’s famous ride. My teacher loved it and gave me an A+.

I’m not sure I could get away with such an original approach now. Creativity, which has always been undervalued in formal schooling, is valued less than ever in these days of standardized testing.

This is both sad and surprising. Check out any list of the top skills and aptitudes that employers are seeking, and you’ll invariably find “creativity.”

All children are creative by nature, yet our educational system all too often stamps it out of them by graduation. Private music instruction is one way to encourage and nurture children’s intrinsic creativity.

Not too many music teachers emphasize highly creative musical skills such as composing (though this is fortunately becoming more common). Yet even when these skills aren’t taught, music instruction provides numerous creative choices, for example, concerning interpretation of a piece. The most beneficial musical training for enhancing creativity, though, will include arranging, improvising and/or composing. In turn, these creative musical skills develop other musical abilities such as the ear, and rhythm, reading and performance skills.

Years ago I taught piano to a bright and motivated teenager. My student later received an MBA from Stanford University and was thereupon offered a job in the creative department at Google. (He decided to start his own company instead.) While I wouldn’t suggest that his lessons with me (which included composition training) were instrumental in receiving Google’s offer, they certainly didn’t hurt!

Today’s world of work demands creativity. Music instruction nurtures it.

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