Over the next few days, EHC will be doing its post mortum of Dress Code – this year’s title for our annual Fashion Event Fundraiser for Making Changes Association Calgary, which also raises awareness of the School and features work of the current students and where they are at in terms of progress and the curriculum.
Looking back over the day, it was a whirl of excitement, joy, expectation and successes. The space was packed. Latino flavoured music of ‘Los Morenos’ engaged guests, all the seats were taken – through the tremendous support of our partners and sponsors, all of which does not happen without the +or- 60 volunteers giving time and lending talents to the event.
The VIP Event one hour before the runway show, was a new feature this year at which the VIP ticket holders had the rare opportunity to go behind the scenes get up close with all the couture garments and the students, see how we prepare for a runway show, have some quiet time with the sponsors, have a good look at all the great prize baskets to be won, drink champagne and enjoy chocolate covered strawberries, shake hands with and meet the 2013 Calgary Stampede Queen and Princesses Calgary’s Royalty and Ambassadors to the world, and listen to our guest speaker Sarah Vann (Singer. Therapist. Writer. Music Therapist. Performer) talk about Creativity – perfect fit with EHC and really, what you (can) do everyday.
Sarah delivered a moving talk about how creativity lives within us and how it lives with her daily not only through her music but through hundreds of children. It was worth sharing with you….click on the pic below and go directly to Sarah’s own blog accompanied by her music, or read below….
Sarah Vann – Creativity in Our Daily Lives
The first time I met Jutta was at a volunteer appreciation dinner at the Lougheed House Historic Site 2 years ago. Before leaving for that particular night, a girlfriend of mine had introduced me to the concept that she had begun to adopt, where she would head out to an social event where she knew she’d be meeting a lot of people and intentionally avoid the question “what do you do?”. This is a safe question. It’s something many of us ask someone we’ve never met before as a fallback to asking anything more intimate. It’s a non-threatening subject and the answer either carries the conversation forward or leaves it writhing in the dust.
I decided that night that I would employ this technique. It would force me to ask questions of people that would surprise and, hopefully, engage us beyond our definition as workers in the world.
Jutta sat down beside me a red dress – which you always notice, no matter the woman, no matter the cut-sometimes because of the woman, sometimes because of the cut- “What a beautiful dress” I commented. “Where did you buy it?” “I made it”, she said. “What do you do?” I asked.
So. I failed. At an experiment. And gained great success with an important personal and professional relationship. She told me about EHC which she ran with her mother and sister. She told me where it was and how it worked, that they were in their first years of the school and hoping to grow it into a crucial and important part of Calgary fashion.
Meeting Jutta coincided with my reading of “The War of Art”, a wildly inspiring book written by Stephen Pressfield that talked about a force that exists within us called Resistance, how we can combat it and what lies beyond that point for us. To quote:
The Unlived Life
Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.
Have you ever brought home a treadmill and let it gather dust in the attic? Ever resolved on a diet, a course of yoga, a meditation practice? Have you ever felt a call to embark upon a spiritual practice, dedicate yourself to a humanitarian calling, commit your life to the service of others? Have you ever wanted to be a mother, a doctor, an advocate for the weak and helpless; to run for office, crusade for the planet, campaign for world peace or to preserve the environment? Late at night have you experienced a vision of the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be? Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.
Maybe there are some of you can relate or even see yourselves in some of the analogies and comparisons. Maybe not. If not, congratulations. You are doing 1000 things right.
Whatever creativity we can put in our lives makes us better because of its ability to open us to inspiration and our defuse our judgment and cynicism.
My calling as a music therapist at the Children’s Hospital here in Calgary requires me to write music on the spot, 4 days a week for every age, demographic, nationality and personality you can imagine. The skills I have developed in my lifetime allow me to walk into a room and read each person to figure out what the mood at that moment is, whether the child has any interest in anything I might be holding in my arms (guitar/ukelele/rainstick), if the English language is useless in this environment, whether mom/dad/grandma/grandpa could use a break from the prison cell that a hospital room can become.
We might play instruments without any direction. We might look up YouTube videos on the iPad. We might sing endless versions of twinkle twinkle or you are my sunshine or down by the bay or baby beluga. I might hold a round of chimes over an infant’s head for 15 minutes while they incessantly bat at it with their hands. There are an infinite number of musical possibilities available in those moments, only limited by my tools and imagination.
I have spent time with a child whose creative cup got filled by recording an Eagles song from the original recording through the microphone on my computer. So the same song put through a microphone.
I met a child whose favorite sound was that of an air raid siren in 100 different forms.
I have a client currently who constantly educates me on the prevalence of anime in the eastern world.
I have a colleague whose favorite sound is that of a drumstick screaming along the top of a ride cymbal.
I have recordings of my nephew making up songs about airplanes and pies in the skies.
I have a photographer friend who believes that your image becomes public property as soon as you hit the sidewalk. (This was news to me.)
This past week alone, I spent some time with a 3 year old who has been on isolation in his room for over a month. We played instruments and sang a few songs, played a few finger games. His play area has recently expanded into their bathroom, where the shower is wheelchair accessible, (so no tub). His mom (young, stoic, unfailingly patient) had taken a bed sheet and hooked it around the shower head, tied one corner to the handrail on the wall and brought in the medical waste receptacle to tuck another corner behind. She had created a credible and perfect fort.
After he gestured me in (I became very conscious of the heels I had chosen to wear that day) and crawled in behind me(and reclined onto the couch cushions laid on the floor), we sat and I chatted. “this is your fort?” “yep” “it’s pretty great” “yeah” “Did your mom build it?” “yeah”. His arms were flopped out open on either side of him and he stared up at the rooftop of the sheet. Completely relaxed in his own private refuge.
When relaying this story to a friend of mine, she said “isn’t it incredible, the creativity of the human spirit?” I asked her what she meant. “that that mother would find the willpower and ability in an unbelievably dire situation to look at a shower space and say ‘that would make a perfect fort’”.
My work requires me to be creative, to reach further, to find ways to distract my patients from the wretchedness that being in a hospital encompasses. I have learned and found my strength and patience and poise and peace in the mothers and the fathers of my patients.
I am in a place 4 days a week that puts on the rack my creative capacity, my belief in the human spirit and the fabric of my soul. And I know how important it is that I carry on doing this. Not even for the families I work with, but for my own sense of self and doing what it is that I was placed on this earth to do.
Placing yourself in a creative place can feel scary and uncomfortable. It’s risky. We say things to ourselves that we would never let another say to us. The demons come out to play. The ones who say “what’s the point? Who will love it besides you? There’s nothing to pursue there” “why?”
And none of it’s true. You are the only one who decides what role creativity will play in your life.
I have listened to young women talk about how playing music has saved them from a bottomless pit of self-hatred that only an eating disorder can create. I have met a father who, after losing his son to cancer (and having no prior music experience), couldn’t stop writing songs.
I meet artists that create on sketchpads, iPads, in craft lounges and garages. I have met entrepreneurs who spend hours in front of their sewing machines in their desire to create what pristine image exists in their head. I have been witness to live art, bad art, musical wretchedness and inspired musicianship. I have tasted failed baking experiments (some my own) and been to quilting exhibits in foreign countries. I have seen more bad tattoos than you could shake a stick at. I have also seen some that render me speechless.
Nothing makes me happier than when I find out someone is creating. That someone is trying. That someone is taking a risk.
How I create in my work has leaked endlessly into my daily life. Everyone here has fallen down some version of an internet wormhole. You find yourself at 3:00 in the morning drooling over a Victorian trumeau mirror that someone created using an ikea full length and 8 different kinds of mouldings from home depot.
Recently I saw a project that I liked through a link on apartment therapy of a pallet that had been ripped apart and nailed back together as a sign that read “Believe there is good in the world”. The letters had been painted in different colors so that “Be the good” stood out just slightly.
I found a project where someone had taken a beat up coffee table, lain a piece of lace over it and spray painted over it, leaving a beautiful pattern.
Technology has offered us an infinite number of ways to be creative and it seems there is a higher demand for that ability than ever before. In 2 years the number of instagram users grew a 1000x over from 100,000 to 100,000,000.
People are constantly blogging and vlogging about their creative lives. Pinterest gained 30 million users in a year. You can find the DIY instructions online for everything from building a perfect Lego replica of the Starship Enterprise to the construction of lady Gaga’s meat dress. 50,000 blogs are started every day.
Obviously there is a hunger out there not only to create but also to share the creative experience. To show our accomplishments, however small, to a community that we have sought out.
There are 2 reasons that I love making music with children.
Firstly, they are fearless. And that makes ME fearless. They have not yet had someone communicate to them “that is not good enough. You shouldn’t do that.”
Secondly, music carries only the element of fun. There is no pressure to learn or be bettered by this experience. There’s no concept of skill or ability or what you should or shouldn’t try. There is only music. There is only creativity.
If only such simplicity could be put back inside of us. If only we had the unburdened and shiny outlook that only children seem to possess.
I’m willing to bet that we do.
And it’s not a matter of time or space or availability or inspiration. It’s just a matter of will.
©Sarah Vann 2012
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