Defining Creativity Podcast [October 18, 2022]
S1E16 A Musical Director of Musical Theater at Indiana University—
Broadway Conductor and Pianist's Definition of Creativity with:
…having a sense of self—some people get it from Mom and Dad; some people have to acquire it somewhere else, but really the important thing to succeed is to have a good sense of yourself so that you’re not filled with doubt and so forth."
“I can have a favorite color that’s different from yours and if everyone in the room has their own favorite color, then we have a rainbow instead of a black and white world. So, I think that might very generally summarize how that applies to me and why… I always say celebrate flaws and celebrate the differences.”
Terry LaBolt is featured in this week's episode during which he discusses creativity in his life from childhood to Broadway and Carol Channing to Indiana University with various stops along the way. Influences for the development of Terry's creativity came from diverse experiences, a significant one being exposure to Schoenberg's String Quartets performed by the LaSalle Quartet while at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM): “In my tenure at the Cincinnati Conservatory, there was a string quartet called the LaSalle Quartet and at the time I was in school, they were recording the complete Schoenberg String Quartets for Deutsche Grammophon… every semester there was a recital where they would try out a Schoenberg Quartet. So three times a year I would go and hear the LaSalle Quartet play Schoenberg… and the Schoenberg was tough for a year or a year and a half, and my ear started to expand and, instead of just hearing... what you might think of as like Tertian harmony or traditional harmony, I started opening up to just listening for events and not listening for a chord to resolve or an 'amen' cadence and to just enjoy wherever it was headed."
Another source of learning at CCM was Terry's peers: “A lot of my creative thinking came from sitting around with my classmates talking about how we play and how we think and how we interpret, how we remember, how we forget… you know, just analyzing, analyzing, analyzing to a ridiculous degree, but it did change me. All of that information changed me.”
While living in New York City in his early 20s, Terry took advantage of local culture and museums such as the Guggenheim as he expanded his appreciation of abstract art and thinking. His work on Broadway and beyond included a lot of work with Carol Channing, and yes, he does a spot on impression of her: “My primary employer was Carol Channing, and [she] would say… ‘I love it because you’re the first person who conducts it the same every time’ and really I was the first person who did it differently every time, because I knew exactly what she needed all the time. I knew from the way that she walked on stage and how many times that she blinked her eyes in a minute; I knew how fast she needed to go. And, these are minor adjustments I would make. It wasn’t something that would throw the whole show off, but… I would just conform the show to her.”
Terry generously shares his expertise and experiences with students, most recently as a Music Director at the Indiana University Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance. His creativity goes beyond music and informs relationships and interactions through flexibility, listening skills, and openness allowing him to engage students and colleagues as well: “I always have to know with who I’m dealing with—whether it’s a student or a colleague or people in a show—I have to kind of know where they are. If I don’t have students’ attention in class, my first thought is I’m not engaging them; they’re not being bad. It’s always like, ‘What am I doing that’s making them check out?’ And, I would say the same with my colleagues. So I’m kind of hyper-aware of where other people are all the time and I’m making adjustments.”
“There’s success and there’s achievement and that gets very confused for a lot of people… With my students, I really try hard to get them to understand the difference because most of them are people who have wanted to get the best grade on the test and who have wanted to know what the teacher wants and do all those things and I’m included in that. We equate achievement with happiness and really we shouldn’t do that. We can equate success with happiness, but success is not like a job or a salary, it’s a personal thing. It’s ‘Did I do my best?’ and so forth, not ‘Did I get this? Am I number 1?’ all those things. That helps students be creative when they realize, ‘How can I do my best?’ instead of “What do they want?’ That’s a huge thing. That’s a goal that I have for each of them.”