Wynton Marsalis and the Lessons of Jazz

Over at Presentation Zen, design guru Garr Reynolds gives glowing praise to the book Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life by Wynton Marsalis and Geoffrey Ward.  He also links to, and comments on, an interview with Mr. Marsalis from a few months ago.  The lessons are many and profound, but one resonated especially with me.  I will not try and do better than the words of Garr and Wynton.  Garr writes:

The lessons found in jazz — its meaning, its history and its relevance for life, business, and education — run deep and wide. It’s really quite amazing. Every student should have a good exposure to jazz (and classical music for that matter) in their education — music education is not a nicety, it’s a necessity. Organizations and schools are always talking about the need to foster creativity and innovation, the need to encourage dedication and self-discipline, and the importance of developing skills for collaboration. Yet the arts — especially jazz — teach all these things. In his book, Wynton illuminates the deep beauty that is found in jazz and why and how it’s relevant for us all. Here’s a line from Chapter seven:

“Our desire to testify through some type of art is unstoppable. A palpable energy is released when inspiration and dedication come together in a creative art. The energy is transformative in an individual who is innovative, but it is transcendent when manifested by a group. There are no words for the dynamic thrill of participating in a mutual mosaic of creativity.” – Wynton Marsalis

 I couldn’t agree more.  I sit on the board of directors of the Capitol Theatre and the Cultural Affairs and Heritage Committee for the city of Moncton, and the Advisory Board and Marketing Committee of the Capitol School of Performing Arts.  I believe that a firm grounding in some art form needs to be a part of our childrens’ school curricula and embedded in our society.  The government (theoretically) won’t let someone graduate without knowing how to read, and having “performed” the act of reading the classics of literature.  They won’t let a student go unless he’s learned math and proven it by “performing” math on a word problem.

 But yet we set loose our children into the world after high school with most of them never having played a musical instrument, written a serious poem, painted or sculpted a visual piece, acted in a drama, danced a minuet or accomplished any other form of artistic expression.  I think this is wrong and short-sighted, and that we must move from an education system that was designed (very successfully) to produce factory automatons and office drones.  The information (as opposed to industrial) age needs a process that produces creative, mold-breaking individuals.  And what teaches creativity better than the arts?

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