“Hockey is Art, you say?”

Well…yes.  I guess I do.

Let me explain.

Mirriam-Webster’s dictionary defines art as follows:

  1. skill acquired by experience, study, or observation
  2. a branch of learning
  3. an occupation requiring knowledge or skill
  4. the conscious use of skill and creative imagination.

Searching the definition of art online will find you many more ideas, like my personal favourite, “a skill at doing a specified thing, typically one acquired through practice: the art of conversation.”

In my mind, the definitions speak for themselves.  But let me elaborate a little.

I like to think of art as the thing that allows a person to be completely themselves, a passion that allows them to be creative, gives them life, and builds refined skills while teaching life skills needed for everyday survival.  It really doesn’t matter if its painting, or if its sports. 

Having said that, the game of hockey requires some pretty advanced, creative skill. 

Movement for example.  Intricate footwork takes coordination, like dance.  You not only have to understand the logistics of the moves, but you have to be able to feel them, and allow them to become second nature.  There’s an art to that. 

Understanding a play requires imaginative thinking, and anticipation of what may or may not happen on the ice.  Like most music-making, hockey is a team sport that requires a player to be aware of the role and intention of the players around them.  (Think of an orchestra, all playing their own instruments and notes, but working together to play Beethoven’s Fifth.  There’s a team if I ever saw one.)  Wayne Gretzky said, “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” In my mind, that’s creative and critical thinking.  We do that in music all the time. 

They say that to become a professional musician, you need approximately 10,000 hours of practice outside of lessons.  The hours do count, but I’m not so sure that its about the exact number of hours as much as it is about one’s commitment to the craft.  Or to the skill-building. 

Or to the passion. 

So really, by definition alone, we could see how a sport that requires skill, patience and commitment, imagination, and creativity can be called art.  But when you live the game of hockey, you can FEEL the passion, adrenaline, freedom.  The same thing I feel when I make music.  And, for the record, the same thing I feel when I practice.

Friends – art is found in unexpected places.  My main message here is that it doesn’t matter what you do in life.  Even Albert Einstein said “The greatest scientists are artists as well.”  Art is about thinking beyond the problem or the challenge that’s in front of you, and finding a creative way to solve it. 

Sports, science, math, agriculture, music.  They are all art in my opinion.  But whatever you call YOUR work (or your play), I hope you also call it your passion, and maybe even your artform.

“………………..is Art.”

You fill in the blank.

As we look back on the recent generosity of our community, and the huge success of our “50/50 for kids” fundraising campaign, I want to encourage us, as those who desire to invest in our community, to continue finding all the opportunities we can to help develop the next generation of leaders in our region. Even if those opportunities are through a different outlet…one that we may or may not understand entirely.  Whether it’s in the arts…or not.

It’s important that I put youth in the room with someone I know will inspire them to develop both creative skills, AND life skills.  To pair them with the best mentors I can find.  Leaders in the community that demonstrate dedication, hard work, kindness, integrity, and passion for what they do.  People who realize that wealth is found in unexpected places, and the most important thing THEY can strive to do is impact others.  Besides the artistic skills they pick up along the way, I hope they remember the people they meet along the way.

Through my own education as a musician, I learned to interpret music and text, and develop my own unique ideas of what it all means.  I learned to collaborate with the most important person in my performing career, my pianist.  Without that partner, I wouldn’t be much to listen to.  I learned to thrive on constructive criticism.  Without it, I simply wouldn’t improve.  I learned to be flexible, by working with manydifferent stage directors – whose job it was to create a show out of movements and mannerisms.  Directors have a vision, and as a performer it is my job to make that vision come to life.

In short, through the arts, I learned life skills: independent and creative thinking, collaboration, applying constructive criticism, and flexibility. 

If I didn’t find myself in the room with that first voice teacher, if I didn’t have the arts, there’s a good chance I would have been left behind, and I wouldn’t have developed all the skills I did, because when I found music and art, I finally felt that I had found my PLACE. 

And there are many more like me. 

One of the things I hope for most in my work is that we will be able to help everyone understand that kids don’t just learn life skills through sports, or school…OR art.  Kids learn differently, they connect differently.  I want everyone to find a place where they feel safe enough to learn and develop all the skills I’m talking about.  I want to provide the same opportunity to study the arts that I had, to anyone who wants (or needs) it.

Thanks to everyone who believes in supporting projects like our After School Arts Program.  As a result, we raised tens of thousands of dollars that will go straight to the next generation of creative thinkers and leaders.  Kids like yours and mine, grandkids like yours (and someday mine), and everyone in between. 

And thanks for investing in KIDS, because it’s the right thing to do.

Recently I interviewed Naomi Woo, Assistant Conductor with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.  We talked about the real people behind the famous composers who lived one story above and below one another in their European apartments, and how they influenced each other in their writing.  Apparently, being influenced by our neighbor hasn’t changed over the last couple of centuries!

We also talked about her work as Music Director of Sistema Winnipeg, a free program for kids who want to study music, and a group of professional musicians and teachers who want to inspire social change. 

It reminds me of what is possibly the most important lesson I learned in graduate studies: as a musician, you always want to inspire others, but you also need to be inspired yourself. 

To see the work that someone like Naomi Woo does on the stage is inspiring.  She seems to shape the music, draw the story out of her fellow Symphony players, even command the audience’s emotions.  That power, together with her passion for the craft, is inspiring for us to see. 

But she also talked about the other players on stage supporting her, and making music with her.  I may be putting words in her mouth, but it sounds a lot like the players she’s talking about are inspiring her at the same time. 

Our role as arts advocates is so important. Educational programs like Sistema and our After School Art Program reach many people, and the experiences they offer travel with students and teachers throughout their whole lives.  To be able to provide programming like we do, putting kids in the same room as some of the best instructors in the region, inspiring them…and doing it at no cost?  Amazing.  To know that you’re encouraging kids to work hard, be confident, to strive to achieve their best?  That’s an incredible feeling.  I might even call it…inspiring.

All of this makes me wonder if those composers were influenced by each other, or secretly inspired by each other.

So, just like the composers Naomi talked about in our interview, that puts us, in a manner of speaking, in the middle.  And to see the work that we do with kids pay off – that is definitely inspiring from both sides. 

I have to say, I’m also impressed by the recent generosity of our gala guests, supporting programs like this, and directly or indirectly building community leaders out of our students, our audiences, and our supporters.  Who knows…maybe some of your neighbors noticed you supporting SAC this spring, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll be inspired to follow suit. 

So where do I want to be?  Right in the middle, realizing my own potential, and drawing it out of those around me at the same time.

PS – here’s the interview.  Watch it, and you just might be inspired!

Up here on my soap box, my message is always that the arts build skills beyond singing, dancing, acting, or painting; the arts help build the Whole Human.

In the last two weeks, we’ve put together a list of classes and activities for our region, from preschoolers to adults in every discipline.  How do we do it, you ask?