Sparking Your Creative Genius

This article was written for the parents in my piano studio.  Some things have been changed to reflect the Colorado Composes Project:

This summer, during a trip to Boston, my eldest daughter and I had a discussion regarding achievement, encouraging growth in students and parent perceptions of how their children achieve.  My daughter suggested that I spend the summer reading and contemplating the following authors:
David Schenk’s The Genius in All of Us
Angela Duckworth’s Grit
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow

After a visit to The Brookline Booksmith, I jumped into my reading program with both feet.  The ideas put forth by the first two books on the list, The Genius in All of Us & Grit have been the inspiration for our Colorado Composes with Friends2017-2018 academic year.  

Available at all fine bookstores and on Amazon

Available at all fine bookstores and on Amazon


I have discovered, from my time as a music teacher and co-coordinator with Colorado Composes, that the only way to achieve anything is by good old “Elbow Grease”  We are all impressed by talent but know so many in our circle of friends and studios who have not achieved all they can because they just won’t work to achieve what seems so obvious to all of us.  Most of us tend, as Angela Duckworth so eloquently puts it, ...”get distracted by talent.”  Angela talks about how we become so enamored by the concept of talent that we forget about effort.  She wants to let us know that, “the main thing is that greatness is doable.  Greatness is many, many individual feats, and each of them is doable.”   

Angela quotes the great philosopher, Nietzsche, “With everything perfect, we do not ask how it came to be.  Instead, we rejoice in the present fact as though it came out of the ground by magic.  No one can see in the work of the artist how it has become. That is its advantage, for wherever one can see the act of becoming one grows somewhat cool.” (Nietzsche)  “For if we think of genius as something magical, we are not obliged to compare ourselves and find ourselves lacking.”  (Angela Duckworth)

Angela makes a further case by saying that “we want to believe that Mark Spitz (or any other accomplished person) was born to swim (compose, play, write) in a way that none of us were and none of us could.  We don’t want to sit on the pool deck and watch him (her) progress from amateur to expert.  We prefer our excellence fully formed.  We prefer mystery to mundanity.  

What Angela was trying to say is that talent (what ever particle of natural gift we were given) is only 1 part of the equation.  It takes talent x effort to equal skill.  Then as your skill increases and you times it by more effort you equal achievement.  
            talent x effort = skill         
            skill x effort = achievement

As we begin our new academic year, there will be lots of opportunity to take your raw talent and with effort turn that talent into skill.  You will be asked to take on board the Japanese saying, “Nana korobi ya oki.”  In English the saying goes something like this, “Fall Down Seven, Get Up Eight”.  It really means, if you fail, try, try again.  You will only accomplish good things if you are willing to work for them.  

As students have worked on their composition process this past year, we have noticed many good things, but the best outcome has been the growth in composition skills because you practiced the art of music composition.  

As Will Smith point out, “The separation of talent and skill is one of the greatest misunderstood concepts for people who are trying to excel, who have dreams, who want to do things.  Talent you have naturally.  Skill is only developed by hours and hours and hours of beating on your craft.”

So with that being said, welcome to the 2017-18 Colorado Composes With Friends Project year.

Sparking the Creative Genius Within You