The full article was in our paper this morning, but here’s a snippet:

The 17-year-old senior is the drum major of the school’s Lightning Regiment Marching Band. For a Governor’s School project, he took the complicated music based on Dante’s Divine Comedy and rearranged it for a marching band.

He took a 30-minute piece of music, composed for a symphonic band, and came up with an 8-minute score for the band’s competitive field show.

“That is completely unheard of in a regular school setting,” said Ryan Addair, band director at Chancellor. He added that bands typically pay $1,000 to $3,000 for original music.

I certainly don’t mind an article that showcases anyone’s art. But this sort of article bothers me because it makes teenage musical creativity seem too special, when it’s not. At all. One need only to search around on YouTube for a few minutes to find plenty of young composers sharing their original work. I think such creativity is unfortunately not as common as it could be, but I think that’s because adults, both parents and teachers, are terrible at encouraging and supporting such creativity in young people. The kind of creativity that is supported is usually restricted to the confines of a specific assignment. Such as: “This month, class, you must work in groups of 4 to create 10-minute documentary videos! Yay, I’m encouraging creativity!” (As wonderful as Nerds in the Midst is, it’s not exactly exemplary of my creative ambition.)

Perhaps most people don’t really understand the nature of creativity; perhaps it’s thought of as some sort of mysterious elusive trait that you either have or you don’t, you’re either born with or you’re not. That’s why creativity is often only encouraged in students who have already shown their creativity. Now, there is some justification for that, since the students that show their creativity on their own time are obviously more interested, but I can’t help but wonder how many more would be just as creative if (as corny as it sounds) adults actually believed in them, and encouraged and fostered their creative potential instead of filling their evenings with paper and pencil homework. Perhaps many adults don’t even really believe in themselves?

The truth is: everyone is creative. Everyone creates new daydreams and plans and sentences on a daily basis. Some forms of art, like music arranging or painting or piano playing, involve skills that require more concentrated practice, and that can be difficult and time-consuming (especially when you have to write some useless essay), so most people avoid it. But if you put in the practice hours (real practice, not just going-through-the-motions practice), you can do just about anything you desire.

So, as nice as it is that a teenager can be recognized for a musical arrangement, it’s a truly sad reflection on the utter stupidity of our local parents and teachers (or maybe just newspaper article writers) if such projects are truly considered “unheard of.”


Scott · October 27, 2011 at 11:53 AM

Okay, first of all, he stole the idea from me. It was one of 4 projects for senior year which never got approved in time for me to actually do them (2 of which involved the marching band). I’m actually still working on it every now and then on the side.

Secondly, Thomas Carr wrote a random music algorithm in high school and arranged a song for the Chancellor Jazz band (by my insistence that he do it, and which was played), not to mention having his string quartet piece featured in a professional concert and he didn’t get a peep out of this retarded newspaper.

Third, there are at least ten songs (including the rendition of the Star Spangled Banner) that that band plays which are student-written… so it’s not “unheard of.” Granted, it’s cool that it’s Dante’s Divine Comedy, and that the band director was frugal or knowledgeable enough to allow it to be played (whereas the former director wasn’t and never would have — believe me I tried), but it’s certainly not “special” from a CGS band student perspective.

Fourth, “Nerds in the Mist” is a masterpiece. You must never denigrate something that put everyone else to shame and then became the standard by which the others were graded down… not to mention the standard to which every other creative project was compared afterwards. I just wish we still had a clean copy, rather than the one I have that’s in the editing window…

Fifth, and finally, The Free Lance Star IS filled with a bunch of stupid people. I mean, they hired not one but TWO of the people who wrote for Chancellor’s newspaper while I was correcting it…

S P Hannifin · October 27, 2011 at 2:15 PM

I concur. Though, while Nerds in the Midst was a lot of fun, I would not have done it if I didn’t have to. I’m not denigrating the finished product, but it was created under constraints I would rather not have had. That is, if I had truly had my way (the abolition of high school), it would not have existed, and my life would’ve been better.

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