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Creative People: The Ostlers – a family creating together

One of the things that I admire most about my sister (and there are a lot of things) is that she has a TOTAL mother-heart. She and her hubby LOVE their family and they love to be together, which is wonderful, but can be problematic when you are trying to make your artistic dreams come true! Both she and her husband are incredibly creative people. Fiona writes novels and has a theater background (including acting, writing and directing) and is amazingly musical (songs just pop into her mind – wow!) Bret is an artist, I mean everything that the man touches turns into art! He does photography, draws, writes poetry, and is very musical. As a married couple, each has supported the other in their aspirations – he has a band, she a writing career.

But recently, they came up with a BRILLIANT idea. What would happen if they created together? What if they involved the whole family in creating together? That way they could work on their dreams, talents, and passions, but have family fun as well (and teach the kids valuable lessons about creativity). The solution? The Bret and Fiona Show. It’s a YouTube family comedy sketch show. They involve everyone, create original songs, write and produce, film and edit.  It’s truly amazing to think about how much those kids are going to learn about the creative process!!!

Here’s their first season –

1. Family Band: in which Bret quits his job in order to start a family band.

2. We Have Cookies: in which Bret is unable to get his job back, but finds a silver lining in a bad situation.

3. Fiona Strikes Back: in which Fiona uses her musical ability to slap some sense into Bret.

4. The Mommy List: in which Fiona goes back to work and leaves Bret in charge of the home.

5. Staycation: in which Bret can’t stand being a stay-at-home dad and moves the family into a hotel.

6. Travel Agent: in which Fiona loses her job and only writing a song can bring her out of her sadness.

I put in my favorite videos, although they’re all fun and there are some holiday special songs as well. Check out all of their shows through the links above.

It led me to think for a long time about what I could do with my girls. What would be a creative activity that we could all do together? One that will be fun, teach them some skills, help us to learn to work together, and fit into our time and money budgets – but most importantly be something that I am passionate about creating. I think I’ve come up with the right fit, which I will write about soon.

What about you? What can you and your family to create together?  With summer coming up, this is the perfect time to do something wonderful together!

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Home Concerts

Several months ago, my dear friend, Cydnee had been to a home concert of Indie artist, Sarah Sample. Sarah makes her living as a singer/songwriter and Cydnee, a very talented musician, set up a house concert which I was able to attend last month.

It was a brilliant evening of socializing, eating and celebrating art and music. What a nice way to spend a night. I wonder why more people don’t do these types of activities. I know they did years ago before we “plugged in” and art forms became things that we observed rather than participated in.

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Cydnee with her other true love.

This is Cyndee at her piano, she performed several songs that I enjoyed immensely (I’ve always been a fan of her work).

When we walked into her house, I thought, “wow, did Cyd get some new art?” I forgot that part of the evening was to show off Melissa Gaddis-Simkulet’s beautiful work.

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Melissa's art was unique and engaging.

They put out a spread and we socialized, passed a hat for Sarah and then enjoyed a lovely concert. Sarah did a showcase of her work after Cydnee. She is a brilliant lyricist, I was quite impressed with the depth of her songs. Her work can be found  here.

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Sarah's beautiful smile, such a great performer!

It was such a special evening and I’ve been pondering it since, trying to think of ways to encourage friends and family to share their creative pursuits.   Any ideas?

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American Music: The Sherman Brothers or Some Thoughts on Creative Collaboration

For decades two brothers dominated the scene of movie songs, hired on as the Disney Studio songwriters and later went on to write music for other films.  Robert and Richard Sherman wrote pretty much everything from 1961 to 2000, and now their music is found in Broadway remakes of the movies.

I say everything, because so much of the movie music that I loved from my childhood comes from them.  Here are a few of my favorites (this is not an all inclusive list, just a few from each movie – there are many more for each one);

  • Summer Magic (1963) Femininity, On the Front Porch, Ugly Bug Ball
  • Mary Poppins (1964) Spoonful of Sugar, Stay Awake, Chim-Chim-Cheree, Sister Suffragette, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, Stay Awake, Let’s go Fly a Kite
  • Winnie the Pooh (1966 and 1968) Winnie the Pooh, Little Black Rain Cloud, The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers, Hefalumps and Woozels, The Rain Rain Rain Came Down, Down, Down
  • The Jungle Book (1967) Colonel Hathi’s March The Elephant Song, I Wanna Be Like You The Monkey Song, That’s What Friends Are For The Vulture Song
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) Hushabye Mountain, Me Ol’ Bamboo, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  • Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) The Age of Not Believing, Eglantine, Portobello Road, The Beautiful Briny, Substitutiary Locomotion
  • The Slipper and the Rose: The Story of Cinderella (1976) Why Can’t I Be Two People?, Once I Was Loved, What A Comforting Thing To Know, Protocoligorically Correct, A Bride Finding Ball, Suddenly It Happens, Secret Kingdom, He Danced With Me/She Danced With Me, Position and Positioning, Tell Him Anything But Not That I Love Him, I Can’t Forget The Melody

I love the way that their lyrics are full of wonderful word play.  For example look at the following song;

What a Comforting Thing to Know

(from The Slipper and the Rose, which was my favorite movie as a girl.)

Good kings, bad kings
Sane kings or mad kings
Benevolent or nefarious
Here is where they bury us
Oh ho ho
What a comforting thing to know
There’s a pre-arranged spot in the family plot where my royal bones will go
Yes, I’ll be slipped into the beautiful family crypt
Oh ho ho
What a comforting thing to know

The lyrics are so clever and the music is catchy, easy to remember.   Here is a site in which you can find all the lyrics to the songs from that musical.

This is one of the songs (again from the movie) Protocoligorically Correct, I think it is such a kick to see these older men dancing in their tights :).

So many, many happy memories are tied to these songs!

Bob & Dick Sherman and Walt Disney

Recently (2009), their sons made a documentary, The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story about their lives and their partnership.  Here is a site from the creators that highlights the film.

The filmmakers bring up an interesting point in the movie, that the brothers worked together but due to a family rift, they led separate lives and their families had virtually no contact with each other.  So, men that made music for happy families for over fifty years had a dysfunctional family.  Jeff and Gregg Sherman (the film-making cousins)  do a very good job of not pinning blame on either brother.  The film also showed how amazing it is that their very different personalities intersected in a way that created a tremendous amount of work.  They were able to set aside their difficulties and collaborate together.

Which brings me to some thoughts I’ve been having lately about collaboration.  Steven R. Covey talks a lot about the synergy of ideas that can come when people work together.  I agree that there are times when “two heads are definitely better than one,” but there are also times when collaboration can run away and change your idea so far from the original vision that it hardly seems recognizable.

I think that in those moments, it’s so important to have good communication.  But, when one of the group is overbearing in their ideas, it can become pretty difficult.

There is a difference though between collaborating on an idea as equal partners and getting feedback and collaboration on a project on which you are the “master” – you can take or leave the ideas depending on which ones will work for your overall vision.

What are your thoughts?  When has teamwork been a positive experience?  When has it “backfired?”