Music education is currently facing a critical juncture, with debates revolving around the significance of creativity in music. While great composers of the past are celebrated as creative geniuses, there seems to be a lack of emphasis on exploring the creative problem-solving process in music education. This blog post aims to delve into the ongoing discourse surrounding creativity in music education, challenging the notion that only a select few possess the ability to create. By examining various perspectives on creativity, we can uncover the potential for creative musical expression in all individuals.

Defining Creativity

The term "creativity" is often overused and misunderstood, just like the word "anger" is a blanket term for a range of emotions. To better understand creativity, it is essential to move beyond a definitive definition and explore its underlying assumptions. Instead of assuming that creativity stems from an external or divine source, we should acknowledge that it can be manifested through innovation, skill, imagination, forward thinking, and risk-taking. By reframing our understanding of creativity, we can unlock its potential in the music classroom.

The Creative Person

Throughout history, the concept of the creative person as a vessel of divine inspiration has been ingrained in Western culture. However, empirical studies have struggled to identify a distinct set of personality traits associated with creativity. By assuming that only a select few possess creative genius, we limit the opportunities for creative expression in the music classroom. Instead, if we believe that all individuals have creative potential, we can empower students to explore and develop their creative abilities.

The Creative Process

Similarly, the romantic notion of a creative genius as a vessel of divine inspiration has persisted throughout history. However, empirical studies aiming to identify specific personality traits of creative individuals have also yielded inconclusive results. Rather than fixating on the creative person, music education should shift its focus towards fostering creative achievements and implementing pedagogical techniques that promote measurable outcomes. By emphasizing the development of creative skills and providing opportunities for students to showcase their creative products, music education can empower individuals to explore their creative potential without relying solely on the notion of innate genius.
Various models have been proposed to explain the creative process, including Wallis' four stages of creative thinking: preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification. These models, however, often fail to differentiate between creative thinking and ordinary thinking, and studies attempting to validate them have yielded inconclusive results. Freud's theory of the unconscious and De Bono's concept of divergent thinking provide alternative perspectives but oversimplify the complex nature of creativity. Instead of focusing solely on a distinct thinking process, it is important to recognize that creative thinking can also be a rational, thoughtful, and careful process.

The Social Context

Creativity is not solely a product of an individual's actions but is shaped by social and historical factors. The cultural domain, institutions, and societal judgment all contribute to the recognition of creative achievements. Understanding the social context in which creativity occurs can help music educators create an environment that fosters creative expression.
David Elliot's perspective highlights the importance of considering the social context in which creative achievements occur. The shaping forces of institutions, cultural domains, and individual contributions collectively determine the judgment of creativity. Creativity is not solely a result of individual action but also influenced by societal factors and the domain in which it manifests.

The Creative Product

Placing excessive focus on the creative person or process neglects the significance of creative products. Aristotle's theory of art underscores the role of skill and rationality in the creative process, suggesting that nothing emerges from nothing. Instead of fixating on the elusive notion of genius, educators should prioritize skill development and provide opportunities for creative products to flourish.
Rather than solely focusing on the creative person or process, it is more beneficial to evaluate creative achievements based on the creative product itself. By valuing the tangible outcomes of creative work, we can avoid placing certain individuals on a pedestal and instead encourage widespread creativity.


Music education should strive to provide a framework that nurtures creative expression in all students. By moving away from the notion of a select few possessing creative genius, educators can empower students to explore their creative potential. It is essential to recognize that creativity is not confined to an exclusive group but can be cultivated through skill development, knowledge acquisition, and imaginative exploration. By embracing creativity in the music classroom, educators can equip students with the tools to unleash their creative potential and foster a culture of innovation and self-expression.
In the realm of music education, the concept of creativity remains multifaceted and elusive. By shifting the emphasis from the creative person to creative achievements, educators can empower all students to explore their creative potential. Understanding creativity as a combination of skill, knowledge, and imagination allows for a broader approach that aligns and should be a high priority as we move forward as music educators.