The first afternoon session was lead by some folks from the Lincoln Center Teaching Artist Center and led us in a session to write a personal philosophy statement starting with checking off five or so core values from a large list of about 120 attributes – like adventure, diversity, integrity, responsibility, etc. I circled community, curiosity, empathy, risk-taking playfulness, humor and fun. I narrowed it down to community, risk-taking, playfulness and humor. We were then tasked to write a statement along the lines of: I am…., I believe…., I believe….. I believe…. and then because of my belief, I ….. It was a simple but effective way to start.

Pairing up with Eloise Bruce, a writer, we each took turns describing a TA project we did, what behaviors and actions we took and learned from and then what core values we used in that project. I used my recent songwriting project at the local school. Eloise discussed her work at a small school community battered by Hurricane Sandy.

Eloise came up with a wonderful statement: “I am an activist artist who teachers. I believe that love is at the core of everything and that it is important to include the practice of reflection in our lives as human beings. I also believe it is critical that I listen to others for a deep understanding and to honor their personal truths. Reflection, love and listening open pathways to creation. I endeavor to be a catalyst for transformation and my alchemy is art, more specifically language.” You could tell she was a writer, and when I volunteered her to read hers aloud, there was palpable reaction from the other TA’s.

Mine is still a work in progress (as they all are): “I am an artist and teacher. I believe in the power of musical play to create community by taking creative risks together. Because of my beliefs, I am able to exercise my true creative self as an artist while creating community at large.” It’s no wonder that we bond together at these conferences by sharing such thoughts.