The creative process is a funny thing; I’ve always been fascinated with how and when inspiration strikes. Some songs that I wrote for Breathe In took so much time, so much writing and rewriting. And yet other ones hit me immediately, and it seemed like I finished them in just ten minutes.
“I Am,” which is my favorite song on the album, was one of those songs that just hit me. I wrote it on a weeknight, in my pajamas, after eating dinner. My fiancé went for a run, and I figured I could use the alone-time to write some songs. I picked up my guitar, and within ten minutes, I had a structure and some chords. Before he came back, I had written all of the words. I was surprised - and a little confused - by quickly I wrote the song!
Although I had the music and words right away, I felt like something was missing – like it needed an actual connection to nature. I knew that I wanted to help children see their connection to the larger world, and to show them that if they treated nature with respect and thoughtfulness, the world would be a better place to live in. I wanted to incorporate nature sounds in the background but wasn’t sure what – or how – to do so. I let the idea rest for a while, and went about my daily life.
A couple months later, I was on a hike in the Catskill Mountains. I stopped in a beautiful open grassy field that was sprinkled with flowers, mosquitoes, bees and crickets. The sound of nature was so loud that it was almost jarring – and yet it was still musical and serene. I closed my eyes, and felt connected to all of the life inside the field. After taking a few deep breaths, I opened my eyes and recorded the crickets. I knew that this was the recording that I would use in the song. You can hear the crickets at a low volume throughout the whole track. Every time I listen to this song, I think of standing in that gorgeous field and feeling so connected the sounds around me.
When I recall writing the song, I realize that in a way it was always inside of me; it just needed a way to express itself. I never would have guessed that inspiration would strike on an ordinary Wednesday night when I was already in my PJ’s after a long and tiring day of work!
As teachers, we have to give our students a chance to access and express the unknown creativity and wonder inside of them. We have to give them the time to connect with the world around them and empower them to realize that they are important, they can make a difference, and that they have the power to create. It’s also important to be conscious of this as a teacher; you might want to ask yourself, “What potential is inside of me that I’m not giving myself a chance to express?”
Before I play the song, I like to model the accessing of my inner creative voice by telling my students the story of how I wrote it. I usually say something like,“I know that this song was always inside of me, waiting to come out! It was like a little voice inside my head that I couldn’t really hear until I paid close attention. Close your eyes and listen to what’s inside of your own mind and body. Listen carefully, and use your body to feel what wants to come out right now.”
This song can be used during savasana, or it can be incorporated into a class activity. You can have your children lie down on a big piece of paper. Trace the outlines of their bodies with a marker. Ask them, “What do you enjoy in nature? Animals? Plants? Beaches? Rainbows? Can you draw some of these things inside of your body?” This will help create a visual understanding of their connectedness to their surroundings.