Da, dum, dum – Da, dum, dum – Da, dum, dum, dum, dum, Da, Da – dum, dum, Da – aaaah I feel my brain being slaughtered by my 9 year old at the piano. Try, try, try – getting it right… error – oops and so we start Waltzing Matilda again and again and again…. Hour after hour, day after day. On occasion I can let it play, other times I walk away, sometimes I encourage “outside time”, and often I declare “silence!” to the furthest corner of the property!
When however I’m in a quieter frame of mind I know that this is all part of the creative and educational process. By choosing the same piece and working it out himself and playing it over and over he’s not only learning to play Waltzing Matilda but he’s learning about music, sound, the piano itself, composition, endurance and so many other skills but mostly he’s expanding his ability to create. No, he’s not creating his own new piece but he’s looking at a well structured piece of music, breaking it down and, although he doesn’t realise it, he’s learning from this how music works and how to place different sounds together to create beautiful pieces of music.
We teach children to never copy and yet how did all the great masters learn their skill? They were apprentices to other great artist, composers or writers. Unfortunately our children don’t always have direct access to masters but the internet does provide us with a wealth of excellence from which we can work.
I recently watched a You Tube video entitled Deadlines where children were asked to reproduce a creative artwork using a clock face as the centre of the picture. They were only given 10 seconds in which to complete the task. In this time they all managed to draw the clock face only. However, when they were given 10 minutes they produced some great pictures. The concept being that “creativity takes time.” This very simple video had a powerful effect on the way I see human activity. When I see children “wasting time” on “fiddling around” on instruments, drawing endlessly, kicking the ball back and forth, back and forth. This is often not simply messing around but instead brain connections, thought processes and creative understanding are being established through these seemingly pointless and repetitive activities.
As parents we so often focus on the end product, on excellence from the start and our child progressing forward. However these are times that they need to be able to simply be. To simply make mistakes – some of which are intentional to understand why that doesn’t work or fit together. In order for them to be truly creative we need to allow them the space and time to work things out for themselves. We also need to realise that as humans creativity is often not about the end product but about the process. So as we head into the New Year and our children are tempted to spend every minute after school engaged in a constructive, organised sport or activity we need to step up and say enough. It’s up to us to ensure our children have time to fiddle on the piano, scribble hundreds of cars or to pick flowers and arrange them on the table for dinner.
As I sat and listened to my son play some beautiful Christmas carols, and watched him beam with pride at what he’d figured out, I knew every off note and my head banging moments were so worth it!