What Musical Minds Teach Us About Innovation In Education: Coda

Author’s note: This post is based on the ideas from the book Two Beats Ahead by R. Michael Hendrix and Panos A. Panay.

As this series of blog posts come to an end the final post will not be a summary of what was covered in the chapter. Instead, in honor of the coda of this final chapter I will pause to write my final resolution about this experience.

My first exposure to music as a mindset for innovation came in a podcast hosted by IDEO with R. Michael Hendrix one of the authors of this book. It’s amazing now to look back almost two years later and reflect on this journey. I now have a master’s in Education Entrepreneurship, a new position at my school I could have only dreamed up, and a renewed philosophy on the role of music in my creative life.

One thing I still ask myself though is how can the concepts from this book be related to someone who isn’t musical? In sharing my experiences with the concepts in the book educators have said to me, “that’s great, but I am not a musical person so I don’t get it”.

I do not believe that people are inherently “not musical”. Just like I do not believe someone is “not a math person”, or can’t draw. I have the belief that these skills and mindsets can be nurtured in anyone. But what is a relatable entry point for someone who has not developed a musical mindset?

The answer came to me in an interview with actor, comedian, musician Ahmad Best speaking about the role of emotion in learning.

“What I am interested in is letting you know that you are the only you in this universe, and that is special. And I want to hear what you have to say, right? I don’t want you to do algebra. I want you to do your algebra. What does that mean? I don’t want you to learn history. I want you to be able to learn history your way, right?”.

For the educator who feels that they are “not musical” and they do not connect with the mindsets shared in the book, do not worry. To borrow the words of Lisa Kay Solomon when interviewing Best I have realized that true innovation is in your ability to “amplify their (students) emotional engines. The best learning happens with emotion, not devoid of emotion.”.

This emotional language comes from those human and creative endeavors that are a part of everyone’s life, the arts. To quote T Bone Burnett in the final pages of the book–”There were decisions made in the last century; we became more and more organized around systems. Within the school system, for example, there were decisions made about the most efficient way to teach children that stripped art of of the school system because art is the opposite of efficient. Art has nothing to do with efficiency, and efficiency has nothing to do with art. Art is inspired, or it’s not art”.

So I would like to remind all my educator peers to discover and bring your creative self into your instruction. These creative expressions are as varied as we are unique–surfing, painting, drawing, sewing, baking, photography, writing, dance, poetry, sport, flower arranging, cooking, juggling, comedy, and on and on…

As Hank Shocklee says, “We’re multi-dimensional beings. People who step into this, those are the kinds of people that are going to make the future. They’re going to replace people who are one-dimensional. Those who don’t understand are out of step, out of key, out of tune, out of time”. And finally, “The only way forward for us is through creativity–creativity which we have an enormous abundance of.”

This is the tenth and final part in a series connecting the ideas from Two Beats Ahead by R. Michael Hendrix and Pano A. Panay to education. To read part 1 on listening go here, part 2 on experimenting go here, part 3 on collaborating go here, part 4 on demoing go here, part 5 on producing go here, part 6 on connecting go here, part 7 on remixing go here, part 8 on sensing go here, and part 9 on reinventing go here.