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Keeping it Creative
By James Hill

In the last few years I've had several opportunities to teach composition workshops. I find these especially challenging, partly because creativity and inspiration are such difficult things to talk about. Inspiration seems to be, by its very definition, elusive and fickle so my stance has always been: "how you get inspired is your business, but once you have an inspiration I can show you how to shape it and develop it."

My approach is changing, however, as I learn more about the creative process and as I become more familiar with new research on creativity. The concept of "inspiration" itself is shrouded in popular myth and misunderstanding. Is inspiration something that only gifted individuals can experience or can creative inspiration be engineered? Can each of us learn to develop our creative abilities the way we develop any other skill? Lately, I've been thinking that the answer is a resounding "yes."

Take advantage of the many creative opportunities that can be embedded into your ukulele lessons. Chalmers Doane and I embedded many such opportunities into our Ukulele in the Classroom series; creative activities such as:

  • "let's write a new verse for this song,"
  • "let's re-harmonize this scale"
  • "let's improvise a new melody for this song"
  • "can you create a harmony part?"
  • "can you create a dance to accompany this piece?"
  • and so on.

These and many other activities can help to stimulate creativity in your classroom. A method book series like Ukulele in the Classroom can provide the structure the "backbone" of a successful music program. There's no substitute for hands-on, sequential, organized teaching. But without creative input from students, your program risks becoming "musical obedience school." Like so many things, it's a fine balance that needs to be continuously monitored. We'll look closer at all of this in issues to come. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, this issue of Ukulele Yes! features a fun article co-authored by Mike Conway and myself on arranging medleys, an interview with Portland Ukulele Festival founder Marianne Brogan, a uke trio arrangement of Down in the Valley, and much more. So tune up, dig in and enjoy!

Uke on!


James Hill
Editor, Ukulele Yes!

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