• Creating an Art's Spirit

    Renowned wind ensemble conductor and educator Malcolm W. Rowell, Jr., was the first guest faculty presenter of the 2013–2014 Music Educators Workshop. Mr. Rowell gave an inspiring talk to 30 instrumental and choral music directors from middle and high schools in New York City who are participants in this year’s workshop. Speaking on a range of topics from creativity to the responsibilities of music educators, Mr. Rowell pointed to the important role that ensemble directors play in the lives of the students they encounter. Here are some excerpts from his message.

    “As we strive to become creative artists, we need to be open to the deeper part of the self.”

    “I have played around with this title ‘Creating an Art’s Spirit’ for a few years now, and I have used it in other workshops. But when people ask me what it means, I’m not quite sure, and that’s the beauty of it. It seems to me that if we aren’t able to create an artistic spirit in our classroom, and in our rehearsal space, then we are hard pressed to achieve anything else that we set about or hope to achieve. What then happens to our aspirations?”

    “When Igor Stravinsky was asked what he did for a living … he replied … ‘I’m striving to become a creative artist.’ I wonder how many of us think of ourselves as creative artists? Stravinsky answered a mundane question with a statement that reflected his deepest being … his deepest purpose: a credo of artistic intent. Stravinsky realized the crucial distinction between what one does with life and what one does for a living. His answer conveys a kind of urgency and passion that everyone in the arts must feel if we are to call ourselves artists.”

    “Teaching is an applied art. Teaching artists don’t necessarily have education degrees. Perhaps some of you don’t have education degrees. Author/educator Eric Booth suggests that teaching artists are role models for lifestyles, discipline, and skill. Teaching artists pass on oral and experiential traditions and ways of thinking, seeing, and being. They are educators in the truest sense of the word. Educators draw out, not put in. How much stuff is hammered into a student’s head in the course of a day, from one class to another? Not your rehearsals, not your lessons. That’s the other part of school. So that they can spit back information for a test. Teaching artists are facilitators and social activists.”

    “Artist educator/musicians approach music and performance with respect, diligence, dignity, and expressive intensity. Our classes and rehearsals must create feelingful experiences. That’s a Percy Grainger term. Feelingful. It’s a marvelous one, and it sort of captures it all, doesn’t it? Experiences that leave us with a sense that we have lived through something of great significance. Experiences that move us, transform us, enrich and deepen us as people, while instilling the love, reverence, and craft necessary to perform and experience music of the highest artistic level. It is the aesthetic that we seek, and its artistic intent is felt deeply within. Beauty expresses, enlightens, nourishes, fulfills, while offering meaning to what might otherwise be a life of ordinary and predictable routine.”

    “No matter where innovation may take us, excellence and relevance must serve as the guiding force of every action that we will take. As teachers, we are stewards.”

    “As we strive to become creative artists, we need to be open to the deeper part of the self.”

    “Creative interplay is the essence of conducting … the mutual listening and giving in exchange: It is bringing the ultimate potential out of each player, thus the realization of everyone’s creative voice.”

                           “Art is spirit and soul education!”