Matthew Lickona 8:30 a.m., Oct. 20
Survive or Thrive in the Arts
I was given the chance to interact with a group of young singers yesterday at Point Loma Nazarene.
Every Monday from 4:00 to 5:30 in the afternoon, the voice students gather with their voice teachers for an informal vocal forum.
At first the students were all gathered in the shadows in the back two rows of the hall. I thought that a little odd for voice majors who are studying to be in the spotlight on stage.
Craig Johnson, one of the voice teachers, got them to move down into the first few rows near the foot of the stage.
I asked them why they want to sing. They gave some standard answers:
"I love it."
"I have an obligation to develop my talent."
"I want to share with others."
"I like to be creative."
What I wanted them to get is that by singing, they want to increase life. They want to increase their own lives as well as the lives of those who hear them sing.
We've all been around someone who seems to be bursting with life -- someone who has that "star" quality. We want to spend as much time as possible with them because, at some level, we feel that being with them increases the quality of our own life.
We feel more alive in their presence.
It is the same with music. We are drawn to particular styles of music because something within us feels more alive when we hear it.
I warned the students that if I'm at a concert and I'm not feeling an increase in my life, I'll probably start playing Angry Birds on my phone. If I'm feeling a decrease in my life, if I'm feeling like the performance is a burden, I'll leave.
Classical music moves me and makes me feel more alive but the performer is also involved with that.
Mere participation isn't enough. To encourage someone by saying, "At least you got up there and did it" is a victory for complacency and mediocrity.
If we tell a student that they achieved something just by getting up there, that's the standard for success we are giving them.
What if we change it up and say, "You got up there and did it. How did you feel about it?" Now we've opened up a discussion and can gently invite a student to grow beyond participation.
I don't want us to participate in the arts, I don't want the arts to survive. I want us to excel in the arts, and I want the arts to thrive.