Making the Arts Personal

 Sandy Seufert, blogger for Arts for LA



Sandy Seufert, Manager of Curriculum and Teaching Artist Development for The Music Center, blogs on the importance of continuing to practice your art.





As an arts administrator, it had become kind of a ‘default mode’ for me to see arts education through a lens of serving “client units” - whole regions, school districts, school staff, or even individual classrooms, as if they were single a organism.  But it has been through a recent awakening of myself as an artist that has completely sharpened my sense that art making, art participation, art exploration, and art learning IS personal – deeply personal.

I feel this so keenly that now my expectations are shifting toward those individual learners and many questions are surfacing.  Are we engaging people in such a way as to give them the tools, the confidence, and the permission to be truly creative?  The arts are transformative, but only if we create a space for them to fully reach that potential.

But let me share a little bit of my personal process and the genesis of this recent revelation.  For many years I have played music professionally (classical music on cello and folk music on violin) and have been an apt technician.  Anyone that plays an instrument (or their voice) knows the technical rigor and expertise necessary to decode and interpret those little black dots on the page. 

But despite all of that “sawing away,” I spent little time engaging any real creativity or newness.  And I think because of that, I began to feel slightly disengaged, literally not even hearing myself anymore.   

Sandy Seufert, blogger for Arts for LARecently I took on two distinctly different musical genres and was in a space of thinking more like a beginner.  And what gifts taking those risks have given me!  Besides just engaging in the sheer joy of exploration of other genres – Zydeco and Jazz, I awakened a realization – to PLAY music is to be at play.  And to be at play is really a complex set of learning strategies that involve exploration, courage, trust, joy, community…well, the list goes on.  

How odd it has been to discover that what I have been seeking has been there all along and all it took was changing my mind!

So, if you work in the arts or in arts education, reflect on the way you are creative, the way you take on new challenges, and the way you engage in your own choices.  Because in our own reflection comes our very best teaching.  The more you can be in your personal learning process, the more you will find that it informs how you interact with others. 

If you take your own relationship with the arts personally, the more apt you’ll be to help others make it personal too.  It is my belief that our best “leave behinds” with students in our arts education programs are what is personally relevant to each individual.   And how do we facilitate that?  The answer may be inside you, waiting to be discovered.



Sandy Seufert works for the Music Center: Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County as the Manager of Curriculum and Teaching Artist Development.  She blogs on teaching artistry for Arts for LA and is a cellist and fiddler.

A great painter once said...

A great painter once said that all children are born creative. The difficult part is maintaining their creativity as they get older. I so agree and looking back on my early years of general ed teaching, I could see how I, unknowingly, was the culprit of extinguishing my students’ creativity. With curriculum that stressed ‘right/wrong’ responses and no in between, it took me a while to see that it was ok for children to make mistakes as long as they were on the path to learn from those mistakes and find new discoveries along the way.


Sandy, the day after you observed my class, my 4th grade flute player came up to me and said while practicing her Honor Band song, the written music called for a D and she played a B-flat by accident. Not only did she realize her error, she said it actually “sounded very cool!” By her making this mistake, discovered how notes not written on her music could harmonize with the notated music. She told me she was going home to find other harmonizing notes in the piece!



Creativity is the key! Teaching is an art! And Sandy is amazing! Thanks for sharing your wisdom!


Mistakes are the fodder for creation

How fantastic that this student discovered a new "vibration" through harmony.  I am going to completely mis-quote this, but I believe it was Igor Stravinsky (and it could be Tchiacowsky, another amazing Russian composer) that said, "If you are going to make a mistake, make it a BIG mistake."  I believe what he meant was that you really have to "go for it" to get the best result and to not be timid and constricted by the fear of making a mistake.  In his teaching, he much preferred to hear glaring mistakes because that student was willing to take risks and try!  I guess that is good advice for all of us!

Thank you!

I have gotten so many warm responses to this blog!   it makes me realize how much we all share and how much we all need to recharge our artistic spirits!  Three cheers to all of you that are open to take a risk and to try something new or to just revisit a past relationship with the arts.   Take care, Sandy Seufert

Continuing to play and create

Sandy, thanks so much for this beautifully written and wonderfully inspiring blog.  I have been undergoing a similar journey -- I have been exploring new dance genres, pushing the boundaries of my creativtiy, and enjoying every moment of it!!!!! It has brought a new intensity and perspective to my conversations with my colleagues and the people I serve.  Celena

Amen!  Love it!...ellen

Amen!  Love it!...ellen schulze