As teachers and students of the arts, sometimes we get so caught up in the banality of our lessons and classes that we forget the whole reason we got into the arts in the first place. Most of us got into the arts because we enjoy making art. Too often we are so consumed with the instruction that we neglect the creation.
It is important to be engaged with your art as often as possible (I’m reminding myself of this fact as much as I’m reminding you). I’m never as happy as when I’m writing, performing and listening to music. You and/or your child are the same way. If you are not painting, singing, dancing or playing the piano, you are not making the most of your talent – or having the most fun.
That is why I strongly recommend getting involved with artistic experiences outside of school. Audition for a community theater show or your region band. Take dance classes at a studio that has live performances. Submit your artwork or short stories to contests or publications. The point is not to win or get published. The point is to force yourself to create something personal, expressive and unique that you are proud of and get it out into the world.
Preparing for a gig with my 17-piece jazz orchestra is a huge undertaking. I always feel completely stressed out by it, I never know if anybody is going to show up to hear us and I always lose money. You’re probably wondering why I bother booking them at all.
The answer is that my jazz orchestra is my own personal, expressive and unique contribution to the world of music. I don’t know or care whether it’s good or not. The point is that it is absolutely imperative that I do it. I don’t do it to make money (thank goodness). I do it because that is who I am.
So who are you? Are you what you do for a living or your GPA? Or are you an artist? If your answer is the same as mine, don’t keep it in the classroom. Get out there and do it!
Joe Elefante has traveled 4 continents as a pianist, saxophonist, vocalist, composer, arranger, and bandleader. He has musically directed, conducted or played countless musical theater productions, including several at the Paper Mill Playhouse and Jersey Boys on Broadway and National Tour. Joe founded the Joe Elefante Big Band in 2001, which was the house band at Cecil's Jazz Club for three years, and was featured on ABC's Nightline and in The Wall Street Journal. Currently, Joe is a freelance composer/arranger/ performer, is very active as a school clinician and is Artistic Director of Elefante Music & School for the Performing Arts.
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