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The Trance of Measurement in Music Education

POSTED ON May 21, 2017   |   Post A Comment

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.

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Alberto G
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Registration Open for the Game Symphony Workshop

POSTED ON May 10, 2017   |   Post A Comment

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

 

Kaley leading the group last summer

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“It Actually Works”

POSTED ON April 27, 2017   |   Post A Comment

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.

Jazz – it’s about learning to improvise

Musicians take part in workshop during Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival
By CHELSEA EMBREE of the Tribune  Feb 25, 2017

Tribune/Barry Kough
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.”

Embree may be contacted at email hidden; JavaScript is required or (208) 669-1298. Follow her on Twitter @chelseaembree.

© Copyright 2017 Lewiston Morning Tribune, TPC Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

 

How To Bring Creativity To Your Private Music Lessons

POSTED ON April 17, 2017   |   Post A Comment

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.

Read more on Medium.

Dissolve the Fear of Improvisation (Video)

POSTED ON March 27, 2017   |   Post A Comment

Fear and anxiety are the biggest roadblocks to creative music making. The good news is the right strategies can ease the most profound phobias.

“Portrait of Dizzy Gillespie” by William Gottlieb. Courtesy of The Library of Congress

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New Podcast Interview

POSTED ON March 03, 2017   |   Post A Comment
I had the pleasure of sitting down with my friend Karl Benitez and his co-host Trevor Pogue for an interview on their new podcast, Anxiety Club. These guys are really entertaining, and we discussed a host of topics:

  • The creative process
  • Why most classical musicians don’t improvise (although they used to)
  • My summer job painting fire hydrants
  • Who to take criticism from (spoiler alert: not many people)
  • Fear and leaning into discomfort
  • Earning a living as an artist
  • When to take a non-paying gig
  • Why I embrace a generous business model

(Warning, there are a few swears. And I was a bit over-caffeinated, so I was talking much faster than usual.)

Listen on SoundCloud or iTunes.

They even turned me into a couple infographics (achievement unlocked):
The sentence about quantity and quality is almost a direct quote from Adam Grant’s book Originals, so I can’t take credit.

Enjoy!

Listen on SoundCloud or iTunes.

– ST

Download a free copy of my new book, Creativity Triggers for Musicians. Join the Facebook group.

Creativity Triggers for Musicians is Here!

POSTED ON February 03, 2017   |   Post A Comment

Download a free digital copy of my new book Creativity Triggers for Musicians.

The Big Idea

Creativity isn’t a mysterious or magical gift. It’s a practice.

The Promise

Creativity Triggers for Musicians will help you express your unused creativity, break through barriers, and create an abundance of original music.

The Content

– 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.

  1. Eight Creative Practices
  2. Creative Limitations
  3. Inner Hearing
  4. Drones
  5. Variations on a Theme
  6. Text Setting

Download the book + free bonuses.

Enjoy!
– ST

Unused Creativity Doesn’t Disappear

POSTED ON December 09, 2016   |   Post A Comment

Gearing up to release my new eBook, Creativity Triggers for Musicians. Below is part of the introduction. Reserve your free copy.

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10 Improvisation Games for Ensembles

POSTED ON October 01, 2016   |   Post A Comment

Theater games help actors create new material and build trust. We can experience the same benefits from creative musical games.

Ease Fears

Improvisation is the source of paralyzing fear and for many musicians, and community-building games help ease fears about the creative process. The novelty, unpredictability, and attainable challenges help drive our attention into the present moment.

Engage Everyone

Group activities engage everyone in the ensemble. The jazz education model of teaching improvisation puts musicians on the spot one at a timemusicians who aren’t playing tend to check out mentally, and many inexperienced soloists get freaked out when put on the spot.

Introduce Creative Practices

Games allow us to experience profound creative practices: experimentation, creative risks, and playing within self-imposed limitations. Although some of the icebreaker games are silly, the practices help us improvise and compose in other areas.

Creative games and activities are the foundation of the Game Symphony Workshop.

When refer to various activities of life as “games,” we do not mean to imply that these activities are frivolous or make no difference. . .Half the fun of playing games like baseball—or the kind that come in a box—is that they challenge us to adapt and hone our skills. . .Naming your activities as a game breaks their hold on you and puts you in charge. Just look carefully at the cover of the box, and if the rules do not light up your life, put it away, take out another one you like better, and play the new game wholeheartedly. Remember, it’s all invented.

Roz Zander, The Art of Possibility

Here are ten of my favorite games for musicians who may be new to improvisation:

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Transcribe the Music in Your Head

POSTED ON September 02, 2016   |   2 Comments

Your next creative breakthrough may be all in your head.

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Ivan (more…)

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