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MULTICULTURAL EDUCATION Mary Theresa Reed, Chairperson

Multiculturalism Nurtures the Creative Musician A Recent Multicultural Experience

In April of 2011, I had the honor of traveling with 40 of my choral students to Greece and Turkey. We had the opportunity to perform several times but one of the most memorable perfor- mances was the exchange concert that we did with the Piraeus Music School in Athens, Greece.

It was a beautiful, sunny day and when our bus pulled up to the school, students came running over to the fence to get a peek at the Americans. Everyone was so kind and accommodating. We changed into our performance dress and the joint concert began. We sang for them and they sang for us. We had heard before ar- riving that they knew the South African Freedom song “Siyahamba.” So of course we had to sing it together. We were not sure if we knew the same arrangement but somehow felt that it would work out. And boy it did!

I have been including Siyahamba in my choice of repertoire for over 25 years. Never before had it been performed in a more enthusiastic, fun and creative way. We did not know the exact same arrangement, but because the students were listening and following, along with the sheer joy exuding from their souls, plus some fun choreography from the Greeks, it became a brand new piece for all of us. So there you have it, a quick recipe for creativity in multicultural mu- sic. An American choir, a Greek choir

and a South African Freedom Song, all blended into a delectable dish of multiculturalistic delight. It did not end there. We shared a lovely lunch, a game of basketball and after a bit more social time, we exchanged autographs and promises to friend each other on Face- book. Returning home, we were able to successfully share our new interpretation with our fellow classmates.

Our focus is on creativity this year and as I searched for a connection between multiculturalism and creativity, I came upon some interesting information. It is yet another look at why multiculturalism is so important. Multicultural experi- ences impact our creativity. In music education we have the perfect venue by which to make a diff erence, enhancing the creativity in our students through the study and performance of music from various cultures.

Multicultural Experiences Enhance Creativity

As stated in the article “Do Multicul- tural Experiences Make People More Creative?” “Multicultural experiences increase creativity. Contemporary re- search on this topic has identifi ed at least three ways multicultural experiences can increase creativity. First, it can liberate people from their mental sets by provid- ing intellectual materials and opportuni- ties for creative conceptual expansion. Second, it can foster the development of the cognitive skills that give rise to

creative performance. Finally, it can increase people’s receptiveness to ideas from other cultures.”

By exposing students to the varying cul- tures, they become more aware of what is possible outside of their own culture. T rough the study and performance of music of varying cultures, we expose our young people to a world beyond their own, from which they can extract ideas and understanding and spark an interest that results in something new and innovative.

Why is Creativity Important?

Michael S. Brockman, University of California, and Davis Stephen T. Russell, Ph.D., University of Arizona, highlighted the following four reasons why creativity is important.

1. Research has shown that the cultiva- tion of creativity is a key component of programs and strategies to pro- duce positive outcomes for youth. Programs that teach children creative problem-solving skills help them to become successful adults who can question the accuracy of information and put information to constructive use (Todd & Shinzato, 1999).

2. Moreover, student involvement in creative activities (such as perform- ing arts and group activities) has been found to reduce drop out rates and to improve student motivation (Sautter, 1994).


Illinois Music Educator | Volume 72 Number 1

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