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How the Performing Arts can nurture a creative brain

Schools play an important role in igniting and feeding creativity and originality, something the Performing Arts Department at Haileybury has long recognised.

NEWS 4 Apr 2022

Creativity, originality and initiative are skills identified by the World Economic Forum as key for success in future workplaces. Schools play an important role in igniting and feeding creativity and originality, something the Performing Arts Department at Haileybury has long recognised.

Director of Performing Arts, Rod Marshall, also leads the School’s Music Program and says there is a growing body of research proving the far-reaching benefits of playing a musical instrument.

At Haileybury, more than 800 students in Year 2 and above take part in the instrumental music program.

Recent research by Dr Anita Collins, published in The Music Advantage, found that learning to play a musical instrument helps increase concentration span and impulse control. The study also found that learning an instrument can directly and positively affect the development of reading in younger students.

For older students, learning to play an instrument helps them to be ‘comfortable with discomfort’.

“Being comfortable with discomfort builds capacity to deal with, and manage, stressful situations, like performing a challenging solo in front of peers, teachers and parents”
Rod Marshall

“Being a musician is a journey. It’s a learning journey, technical journey and a journey of self-confidence that incorporates a growing passion to perform and be recognised by audiences” says Rod.

“The experience is not driven by exams. Students learn to relish the routine of practice, the pressure of performance, the anticipation of the curtain rising and finally, the exhilaration of applause.”

The power of art is being explored by neuroscientists who have found that creating art reduces cortisol levels – the hormone associated with stress. This would include expressing yourself in the areas of Music, Art and Drama. These studies are part of a new area of research called neuroesthetics that use brain imaging and brain wave technology to collect scientific data about how people respond to the arts.

Philippa (Pip) Bell, Head of Drama (Junior School and Middle School) leads Haileybury’s Drama Program and says creativity, collaboration, imagination, empathy, self-expression, concentration and achieving potential are all enhanced by involvement in the Performing Arts and Visual Arts.

“During performance building from the early years of Drama and Dance, students collaborate to create something that is bigger than themselves. They learn active listening, negotiation, concentration and communication,” says Pip.

Building confidence, as well as creativity and imagination, is also part of the Performing Arts experience.

“The impact of Drama and the growth of an individual’s confidence are a longitudinal study. Memorably I taught a Prep student who was so overwhelmed by the experience, that he ended his first lesson in tears. He has recently completed his VCE in Drama.“

“Over the years, with tiny shuffles, he gained confidence with his interactions with others and the way he presented to the world. It was the most heart-warming thing to watch him create an eight-minute performance ready to present to assessors.”

“Imagination is a skill that is essential to our world. If we don’t have imagination, where do our new ideas come from?”

Pip adds that the Performing Arts Program offers students much more than simply the opportunity to develop their music, dance or artistic skills.

“The Performing Arts stimulates the creative brain and this, in turn, improves academic performance. It ignites new ways of thinking and new perspectives.”