The process of creation is more creation.
Years ago, I read an article mentioning the famous experiment from the book Art & Fear about quality and quantity. A professor divided a ceramics class into two groups. He told his students that one group would be graded on the quality of their work while the other group would be graded on the quantity of their work.
The quality group was to be graded on how beautiful they could make their pot, while the quantity group would be graded on the number of pots they made. In the end, the group producing the quantity created more beautiful pots than the quality group.
This experiment has always fascinated me, because I was almost always a quantity person in high school and college. I just wanted to make music. I wanted to make music any way possible, and wanted to make as much music as humanly possible. Then one day, a teacher of mine made a comment that still grates the inside of my soul to this day: “Stop trying to be the jack of all trades. Be the master of one.”
Maybe being the master of one has served certain people, but it has never served me.
I am a born connector. I am a person who finds the connection in seemingly disparate ideas. I used to play multiple instruments. I conduct. I orchestrate. I used to be a costume designer. I have been a stage manager. I have taught students from pre-school age all the way to late adulthood. I have taught public school, private lessons, and professionals. I have conducted professional and amateur groups. I have taught students from extremely poor families and extremely privileged families.
All of it has taught me something and helped me in some way.
I am really tired of hearing from people how we should all pick one thing to be/define ourselves as. As far as I am concerned, that thinking is old fashioned and fundamentally flawed. Additionally, it may work for some people, but not everyone. The more I learned, the better I became at everything.
Maybe I am just a curious person at heart. I think there is some truth to that. I read books on philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience for fun. But I have always been critical of the idea that we should all only master one skill set.
I think, years ago, mastering one thing might have been an option. Thinking about the passing of Jessye Norman, I often wonder if she did anything else with her time. I know many opera singers also paint or tinker in other visual arts. But the fact is, it is very hard to make a living only as a performer in the modern world.
I used to read a lot of autobiographies of famous opera singers who had their careers 20, 30, and 40 years ago. They often had someone really support them in the beginning of their career. Birgit Nilsson was given many opportunities in her home opera house. Maria Callas was brought up the ranks by Serafin. Now, there are not enough supporters for the number of good opera singers in the world. The opportunity to focus the way that they did is extremely rare.
So now, out of necessity in the modern age, we have little choice but to diversify. However, I think it also gives us an opportunity to bring a new viewpoint to our art. Possibly, a more well-rounded viewpoint.
This is also why I began to write extensively. I wanted to have as much artistic output as possible. Is it all fabulous? No. Is it all measurable? No. But, I am actively creating for the sake of creation.
So, my friends. Create. Create many things.
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