When I first discovered I would be taking Berklee’s pilot course Artistry, Creativity, and Inquiry, I was quick to add my own addendum “and all things touchy-feely” or “touchy-feely” class for short. After reading the course description fraught with New Age-y red flags and learning that another ACI course had students building legos for their first class, it wasn’t a huge stretch for me to assume that I was wasting two credits and thousands of dollars to “reflect on [my] life choice as a musician”
That was until I actually had my first class.
Somehow, my instructor, Eddy McGrath, turned our class about reflection on our creative process and examination of the role of the artist in society into the least “touchy-feely” course I’ve ever taken. Hallelujah!
On our first day, Professor McGrath explained that he would treat us like adults, and that meant we could voice our opinions on the syllabus and collectively alter it to fit our needs and interests. So, instead of emphasizing the topics about creativity and artistry, we could request to concentrate more on practical topics related strictly to navigating through Berklee. To say I was surprised, relieved, and overjoyed would be an understatement.
Although, I don’t mean to imply that we haven’t discussed “touch-feely” topics. But under the guise of Eddy’s no-nonsense, sarcastic, and teasing approach, I usually don’t even realize how much reflecting and soul-baring we’ve done until class is over. Well, “usually” being the opportune word. There was that one singing week, but I won’t go there….
Heck, I even found myself enjoying what I’m sure will remain the most “touch-feely” class of the semester. I’m talking, of course, about our class almost two weeks ago in the 939 Cafe when we listened to guest speaker Caroline Harvey, a slam poet/ yoga instructor/ somatic therapist, speak about artistry and creating a sincere dialogue with audiences.
I must confess, I fought from rolling my eyes at the beginning when Caroline asked us to join her in a meditation through the “five realms.” But her wonderful sincerity, openness, and heart helped me navigate around her more New Age concepts so that I could concentrate, instead, on the parallels Caroline presented between her process creating poems to connect with audiences and our musical aspirations to convict audiences.
Overall, I think I’ve experienced the value in following the age-old wisdom to keep an open mind. Had I simply tuned out during Caroline’s meditation, I would have missed so much wonderful food-for-thought. And had I decided to keep a closed mind about my ACI course week after week, I would have missed all the great wisdom and humor Eddy McGrath has shared with us.
So while there’s still enough time for everything to go horribly New Age-y and “touchy-feely” (did I mention I have to create an artist’s statement for my next class?), I’m think it’s fair to say that Artistry, Creativity, and Inquiry has vastly exceeded my expectations. Though, considering how low my expectations were, I’m not sure that’s a compliment just yet.
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- Christian Scott sits down with BerkleeJazz.org - January 6, 2012