Our educational system often operates with the limiting belief that growth and achievement are testable and measurable. When this mindset takes hold of music education, we set a high bar for conformity and proficiency, but lose sight of artistry, expression, and courage.
Join us for a two-day improvisation workshop on the campus of Seattle Pacific University.
Last year, our inaugural adult workshop brought together a group of professional musicians, serious amateur players, and educators. Through prompts, games, and experimentation, we crafted a compelling 70 minute set of original music. I’m thrilled to lead the workshop with composer, vocalist, and Seattle Symphony Teaching Artist, Kaley Lane Eaton.
Registration is now open, and we only have room for 20 participants.
GSW is a mind-blowing improvisation experience. I left that weekend having made new friends and feeling so inspired! As a music educator, I was able to take GSW activities into my high school and college classrooms and see big results! I was practically knocking down Steve’s door to find out when the workshop was happening again. This workshop is so beneficial for classical musicians who are fearful of sounding bad and making mistakes during improvisation. My ears blossomed, my head exploded, and my creativity soared.
– Sarah Bost, M.A. Music Ed.
Flute and saxophone
I had the privilege of presenting six improvisation workshops at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in Moscow, Idaho in February. The Lewiston Tribune reported on my “How to Practice Creativity” workshop.
Musicians take part in workshop during Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival
By CHELSEA EMBREE of the Tribune Feb 25, 2017
Saxophonist and educator Steve Treseler of Seattle (background, left) listens to students work on his ideas for improvising jazz during a workshop Friday at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival at the University of Idaho
MOSCOW – Drew Lyall knew he had to do something.
The 18-year-old from Kimberley, British Columbia, approached the piano at the front of the crowded room in the University of Idaho’s Teaching and Learning Center. He had been instructed to improvise a tune using only the piano’s A notes.
Lyall admitted later that there was “a bit of fear” involved, but he played anyway.
The experiment was part of a Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival workshop on practicing creativity Friday morning. Steve Treseler, a professional saxophonist and teacher at Seattle Pacific University, led the workshop, where he encouraged students to take creative risks and explore new ways of making music.
Lyall was grateful for the experience.
“I’m always keen to jump into a situation like that,” he said. “It’s just a little bit more experience of being in a situation that you aren’t well prepared for. The more often you do that, then the better you are when you’re in situations like that that really matter.”
Treseler focused on three creative practices Friday morning – experimentation, play and limitations.
Artists experiment in much the same way as scientists, learning as much from hypotheses that prove false as those that prove true, Treseler said.
“This might not work, but I’m going to try it anyway,” he said. “Having that kind of mindset is huge.”
Play, he said, refers to a childlike perspective of the task at hand. The goal is not to improve or to be the best.
“The goal of play is to just keep playing,” Treseler said.
Though counterintuitive, Treseler said limitations can inspire creativity. He passed out “creativity menus” to the musician-packed audience, including limitations like Lyall’s to play only one note.
There was one trio that was ready for the challenge. Trombonist Jay Panchal, 16, saxophonist Peter Lee, 16, and drummer Nivedan Kaushal, 17, came forward and promptly put themselves at the mercy of the crowd to pick two limitations from the menu.
The audience implored them to play in constant vibrato and in an 11/4 time meter.
Panchal told Kaushal that they could keep up that tempo if Kaushal could – and the trio from Nanaimo, British Columbia, played.
“That puts you out of your comfort zone,” Treseler said as they finished. “… This is the right kind of experimental mindset.”
Kaushal told the audience he had to “really focus” as he drummed. Afterward, he added that it was “cool” to be able to try anything he wanted.
“It’s one of the fears to get over, actually, just getting up front,” Kaushal said. “Let’s be honest – you’re never going to see anyone here again. Why not completely mess up if it means learning something?”
The trio was most excited, though, when pianist Lyall joined them for another improvisation game. The newly formed quartet played their music in a call-and-response format, with each instrument using only three pitches.
“I really enjoy playing with people I’ve never played with before,” Panchal said. “… Being thrown up there and seeing what happens when you mix different groups together was so cool.”
“The cool thing is it actually works,” Lee added. “It just works out.”
© Copyright 2017 Lewiston Morning Tribune, TPC Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.
New article for private teachers on the Teach Well blog:
Even if you have little experience with improvisation and composition yourself, you can make a big impact on your students by helping them get off the page and create their own music during your private lessons.
The process nurtures creative, independent, and fearless musicians. As teachers, it helps us break out of our standard routines.
I’d like to share a few prompts from my new book Creativity Triggers for Musicians, which you can download for free here.
Fear and anxiety are the biggest roadblocks to creative music making. The good news is the right strategies can ease the most profound phobias.
A new article for freelance teachers on the Teach Well blog:
A clear billing policy is essential to run a thriving teaching business. The right model for you depends on how you choose to balance flexibility with consistent cash flow.
I’ve experimented with several billing models over the years, and I’d like to share the pros and cons of six such models:
Read more on Medium.
(Warning, there are a few swears. And I was a bit over-caffeinated, so I was talking much faster than usual.)
A new article for freelance teachers on the Teach Well blog:
After teaching lessons full time for ten years, I started to burn out. Although I had several awesome students, I was frustrated working with those who were apathetic, unprepared, or had a poor attitude. Over time, I became more complacent and distracted as a teacher, which wasn’t a good situation for anyone. The key to reinvigorating my studio wasn’t more willpower or grit — it was introducing a ‘Red Velvet Rope Policy’.
Public school teachers need to serve every student who shows up. As freelance teachers, we have the opportunity to be selective about who we work with. In the business development guide Book Yourself Solid, author Michael Port outlines a system for screening clients called “The Red Velvet Rope Policy”. Port tells us: “when you work with clients you love, you’ll truly enjoy the work you’re doing; you’ll love every minute of it. And when you love every minute of the work you do, you’ll do your best work, which is essential to book yourself solid.”
Also, see The Five Levels of Freelance Teaching.
I created a Creativity Triggers for Musicians Facebook group to connect readers and creative musicians all over the world.
Of course, our most important connections are playing music together in real life. The value of a digital community is that we can:
– Connect with musicians across the globe
– Share music
– Ask and answer questions
– Find collaborators
– Share insight and resources
To create and perform great music, we need to connect with other people. Our creative practices are often stuffed into a practice room, isolating us from our peers. If we can break out of that sense of isolation, we can create more and connect with wider audiences.
– Kaley Lane Eaton, composer, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist
Download a free digital copy of my new book Creativity Triggers for Musicians. See you in the Facebook group.
Download a free digital copy of my new book Creativity Triggers for Musicians.
Creativity isn’t a mysterious or magical gift. It’s a practice.
Creativity Triggers for Musicians will help you express your unused creativity, break through barriers, and create an abundance of original music.
– Eight creative practices that underpin idea generation in any creative discipline.
– Creativity Triggers: frameworks for improvisation that draw from creative practices. These are similar to improv theater games and creative writing prompts.