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Creativity in education

‘Creativity’ is a buzz word – in a rapidly-changing world, those equipped with the creative, imaginative, and inventive skills are best placed to keep pace, adapt and thrive. That aside, my own work is focused on composition, and invention of new music by groups, so the question of creativity, and its place in education, is always of interest.

A Symposium I attended on the Wednesday of the ISME Bologna conference focused on current research into creativity in education, and presented viewpoints from four different countries.

The first speaker (from the US) started by looking at how the descriptor ‘creative’ can be interpreted in education contexts. We can have:

  • creative process – suggesting imaginative, unusual or surprising approaches to a task
  • creative product – suggesting an outcome that is particularly innovative; and
  • creative experience (for the audience/participant) – suggesting an experience that is particularly expressive, for example.

In music education (in many cultures, not only Western music education practices) ‘creativity’ offers challenges. Performance-based practice is typically focused on the existing repertoire, and long-held traditions. Outside expectations also tend to evaluate and judge according to this criteria. Other artforms are not as restricted as this.

The speaker went on to consider the kinds of ‘spaces’ we inhabit in music education, and contrasted a photo of a drab classroom filled with desks (taken in the 1950s by the looks of things – even in my primary school days classrooms were more welcoming than this) with an image of a vibrant concert hall, glossy, glamourous, shiny and luxurious.

(At this point I found myself taken aback, realising that to me, the classroom looked by far the more potentially ‘creative’ space of the two. Is this my experience of orchestras revealing itself? At the end of the presentations, others in the audience went on to make this point, highlighting that resources do not necessarily indicate greater creativity. The contrary can be, and is, often true).

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