Wyoming Arts Council

"Three Cs" illuminate "Three Rs" at UW event


The “Three Cs” that describe the “Teaching Creativity” conference this past week at the University of Wyoming.

The academy brought in artists, entrepreneurs and inventors to share their insights. Wyomingarts was there taking notes on Feb. 25.

Eddie Henderson is a professional jazz trumpeter who passed through careers in medicine and figure skating before deciding on a music career. His fate may have been sealed at nine years old when he saw Louis Armstrong playing the trumpet at New York’s Apollo Theater. Armstrong came to the house to visit Henderson’s mother, who performed at the famous Cotton Club. Armstrong took a few minutes to let the creative kid blow a few notes on a well-seasoned trumpet.

“Creativity is a byproduct of what you do,” says Henderson. “Love is a part of it.”

He sat on a “Moments with Creative Minds” panel with fellow musician Shabda Noor and African-American poet Evie Shockley. Panel moderator was UW’s J. Scott Turpen, who knows a little bit about music himself – and won a 2004 performing arts fellowship from the Wyoming Arts Council.

What about this creativity question?

Noor pondered it: “Can we teach creativity? No, we just accept it when it tries to come in.” He’s not a big fan of the ways schools teach, sacrificing creativity for standardized learning. “Turned me from a human being into a human thinking – that’s what the education system did to me.” Still, he’s a musician with a doctorate in music, and is always exploring ways to meld his teaching with creativity.

For Henderson, who became an expert in medicine, figure skating and music, it’s the discipline that’s crucial. “When one learns discipline at an early age, one can do any number of things well.” During his time in Laramie, he taught a class at one of the local high schools and at UW.

Evie Shockley knows a bit about discipline. She always loved writing but took a detour from poetry to attend law school. Her discipline can be heard in the music of her poetry. She launched into a reading of “Celestial,” a poem about the meeting of jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald and Actress Marilyn Monroe in 1950s L.A. Monroe helped Ella “break the color barrier” at one of the city’s largest nightclubs, the Macombo. The poem had a jazz beat, and a theme that kept returning to “star” as in movie star, as in singing star, “Ella,” “Stellar,” “Celestial.”

The last of her four poems focused on black history and featured a mix of reading and singing, some of the verses being twists on old nursery rhymes – and how they applied to African-American history.

It is Black History Month. We could all learn more about history and creativity and music and poetry. Now is a good time. So is tomorrow, and the next day, and next month and next year.

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