Below, Elizabeth reflects on her training at UNCSA and her experiences as a participant in LCI's International Educator Workshop, part of the Institute's annual Summer Season of professional development for educators.
Reflections on Phase I - From My Fire Escape
I have had phenomenal teachers. Teachers who inspire their students to learn through their passion for a subject, with how they bring them to take responsibility for their own learning, or with their ability to show the relevance of what they are teaching to each student’s life. Sometimes by being tough, and letting you know when you haven’t given your best. Every teacher that has ever left a positive impression on me has been interested, curious, and engaged with this world of ours. My interactions thus far with the Teaching Artists here at LCI have impressed upon me how much they embody all of these things.
In high school I had this teacher who was as dedicated to his students as to spend long hours outside of school going over physics problems via telephone with his most stubbornly science-inept pupil, and constructed weekly challenges where we had to devise creative methods of defeating “Evil Pete” (his mischievous counterpart) using only the items listed and our knowledge of physics. I, that previously science-inept student, soon became a champion in the battle against “Evil Pete.” Although I retain little understanding of physics, what I will never forget is that, through this and other similar experiences in high school, I learned how to learn.
I like to think that I have been practicing this skill ever since. As content became more important while learning a very specific set of skills and techniques in my study of viola at UNCSA, I did not need to focus on figuring out how to study the information. I had already learned how to learn - leaving room to enjoy the process and focus on the content. Each student at UNCSA is there to become a practitioner of their particular art form. Many of us develop a sort of “tunnel vision” while learning these skills. While this was good for me in that it allowed for a level of focus not often possible outside of conservatory, graduating and entering the “real world” coming from this reality seemed a startling, and to me, frightening change. In what ways can I employ myself as a musician? Is it o.k. to take some time before auditioning for graduate programs? What types of ensembles am I ready to audition for? How do I find students in a city like New York? I am so grateful to have the opportunity to spend this transitional period at LCI. It is giving me tools that are changing the way I look at and think about the world around me. As I begin to notice new things and ask more questions, new ideas occur to me as options for a young musician such as myself in New York. I am reminded everyday by the example of the staff and Teaching Artists here at LCI that the learning isn’t over. That it has in fact just begun.
My introduction to the Capacities for Imaginative Learning is already having an immense impact on my daily life - how I look at visual art and dance, how I listen to music - even how I converse with my friends and colleagues has been altered. Implementing the Capacities for Imaginative Learning into my work and practice as a violist is a very exciting possibility. Some of the Capacities fit neatly and naturally into the way in which I have been taught at UNCSA and the way in which I already practice - identifying patterns, making connections, reflecting/assessing - others are a foreign way to approach my art form, but I am excited to integrate them. The applications seem endless to me, and I feel like they put the strengths and values of all the best teachers I have had into one, concise, concrete and beautiful philosophy. I now have a better idea of how I might become one of those teachers that inspires others to be curious and passionate about the arts and the world around them. In the meantime, they are already helping me to grow as a musician and into a more aware human being.
Specifically, this summer at LCI has become about noticing deeply and taking my noticings and turning them into questions. Open questions. Questions that lead to more questions and maybe research. Maybe that research turns up answers, and perhaps it just leads to more questions, but regardless, it is a fascinating process. It is these two capacities that have most effected me - just realizing (or perhaps re-realizing?) that there is an infinity to what can be observed has change immensely the way I look at the here and now. At a point during the International Educator Workshop we were asked to view the large Henri Moore sculpture in the reflecting pool here on the LCI campus. Although I had passed by it many times, it had never spoke to me. In the next 45 minutes something happened. By having to live with and consider it, the sculpture took on meaning for me. Curved and straight lines, textured surface, shadows cast on the water and on itself. Sunlight and dark hollows, shadowed. My noticings go on. From the roof-lawn of the Lincoln Restaurant it reminds me of a serpentine sea monster - perhaps the Loch Ness monster - exploring the sunlit surface. His title, Reclining Figure, is merely an abstract suggestion, and the sculpture now has a meaning and character specific to me and my experience with his work of art. Somehow, like that time Evil Pete motivated me to explore the use of physics, this sculpture by Henri Moore captured my interest.
From my fire escape I see the street, through the rain protruding with a slippery glow. Street light, heat, noise and dirt rise to my perch - and I’m crazy in love with this city. There is an anonymity about this crowded place that is at once terrifying for an artist (and surely any other ambitious individual) and practically intoxicating in its opportunity. Opportunity that invites reinvention and adaptation of myself with every new street, neighborhood, and concert hall I enter for a first time. Opportunity in the people I may meet and the art and music I have begun and will continue to experience. But best of all, LCI is giving us a place in this vast city where we are not anonymous, and providing us with the tools with which and the environment in which to grow as artists, future educators, and as people.