Keeping a Balance – Sarah Tatto

I am a creative person. From the daydreams that blossom into a flood of ideas, the ability to problem solve from varying perspectives or the knack of seeing the special in the ordinary, I would be hard pressed to give you a moment in my life when creative thinking did not play a crucial part in my thought process.

As creative as I feel I am, I do however believe that creativity is a compliment to structure. When reflecting on this topic, it became apparent to me that the creativity expressed in my life does not exist without structure. In fact, it appears to come together hand in hand. For example, aesthetically pleasing architecture is a balance of these dichotomies. It has a purpose or function which is represented by the structure but it is also seasoned with uniqueness and a type of beauty, an expression of creativity. This concept also holds true in music. The principles of theory and harmony provide the structure to music, which composers, creatively manipulate into singular, crafted musical thoughts.

As a singer, my practice time, of which the first fifteen minutes truly require all my willpower to work though, is essentially the structure that serves as the foundation for my creative expression. I will not be able to “interpret a character”,” feel a musical phrase” or “set the scene emotionally” if I have not vocalized regularly, studied the pitches, learned the rhythms, translated the words or analyzed the text . This dedicated practice time now allows me to later create a more confident and meaningful performance on stage. Without the structure of practice, my creativity would be hampered and be one dimensional at best.

When teaching, I think that structure and creativity can be well represented by the assessing and engaging process. As a voice teacher, I assess my students based on the vocal methodology that I have studied and taught. This is a linear process. Their inherent vocal aptitudes, ranges, timbre, qualities are approached from a structural point of view. However to engage students in their lessons, to summarize or demystify a technical issue, to inspire confidence and to tap into a student’s imagination requires creativity.

Problem solving is another area in my life where I use creativity balanced by structure. When I need to work through a problem alone, I like to either go for a walk or organize something. The act of walking, hearing the percussive pace of my footsteps on the pavement and the pattern of my breathing serves to ground and calm me. I find that my thinking gets “less busy” and more focused on tackling the problem at hand, triggering creative possibilities. The same is true with organizing, where the physical process of straightening and ordering things, elicits a similar response in my mind. This process removes the mental clutter and enables me to creatively problem solve.

From architecture to music, a balance between structure and creativity result in a pleasant effect or product. Whether I am singing, teaching or problem solving, creativity tempered with structure is a tool that I most happily and generally employ.

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