(written by Annie)

A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to catch up with two good friends. Both of them are involved in work that helps people get in touch with their creative selves–one through dance, the other through art. I was struck by the similarity of their approaches in encouraging creativity and it connected closely with the philosophy of Music Together.

We are often so quick to label ourselves or others as “tone deaf,” “having two left feet,” or a “terrible drawer,” but does that mean that we can’t enjoy singing, dancing or drawing? Should we stop ourselves from trying because we are not perfect?

To be honest, before I took part in my friend’s drawing event I was a little nervous. I don’t consider myself artistic and I rarely draw, so to draw outside with a group of strangers was a little daunting. Divya Marie Kato, artist and teacher, encouraged us to let go of our inhibitions and just start with drawing one line. One line is all it takes to get going and everyone can have a go and give it a shot. We gathered in a circle around a beautiful tree and sketched what we saw. That first line for me was so difficult. Where do I start? What if I do it all wrong? Everyone else looks like they know what they are doing! These thoughts went through my mind and I would never have got started if I hadn’t remembered what Divya said: “Just start with one line.”

This was exactly the same approach that my friend the dancer has. Miho Yazawa who runs dance and movement workshops in Tokyo told me that everyone can dance. It just starts with one movement. It’s not dependent on physical ability because any movement, small or large, can be an expression of creativity.

I realized this is also exactly what I’m asking the adults in our classes to do. Just start with a note! It doesn’t have to be perfect. There is no right or wrong! I’m aware that sometimes the adults in our class can feel reluctant to take part perhaps because they have been told they are tone deaf or have two left feet, and here I am asking them to sing out loud and dance like a chicken. It was a good reminder to me that participants in class sometimes come feeling very vulnerable.

I’ll never forget one Azabu Music Together mum who I bumped into one day outside class. She confided in me that she hadn’t sung since she’d been a junior high school student because her music teacher had told her she couldn’t sing! In choir rehearsals she’d been told to “mouth” the words instead of singing out loud. That experience really knocked her confidence and made her worried that her daughter would grow up “unmusical.” That’s the reason she sought out music classes for her daughter. Happily, after a few classes she felt comfortable enough in class to join in and became one of the most enthusiastic singers in class after a term! And by the way, she wasn’t tone deaf by any means! She had a lovely voice and how her daughter loved hearing it.

Part of our philosophy is that all children are musical. Music is part of our birthright. It’s part of who we are as humans. No, we’re not all going to be amazing singers or virtuoso instrumentalists but we can all start with a note and see where it takes us.