Brain Paint ACar
Think About It - Higher Education and The Arts - Neil Slade's Amazing Brain Music Adventure FlaX



Charlie Chaplin
Sean Connery
Julia Roberts
Tom Cruise
Nicole Kidman
Renee Zellweger
Woody Allen
Alfred Hitchcock
Federico Fellini
Vincent Van Gogh
Pablo Picasso
Johann Sebastian Bach
Ludwig Van Beethoven
Igor Stravinsky
Frank Zappa
Jimi Hendrix
Charlie Parker
Miles Davis
Bob Dylan
John Lennon
Paul McCartney....

Just to name a few, the list goes on and on.

What do all of these people have in common?

They did not receive their arts education in college nor received diplomas in their chosen field, and in many cases did not even go to college.


I am most impressed by somebody who does their job well and/or who shows their intelligence through creative expression. And the last time I checked, almost nobody learned how to actually do their job from some class instruction they took anywhere off the job site. Including surgeons.

As Frank Zappa, noted 20th Century modern orchestral composer as well as rock and roll icon succinctly said:
"When you graduate from high school you get a dirty t-shirt. When you graduate from college you get nothing. If you want to get an education, go to the library."


It is true that many jobs require a college degree, and the status of a prestigious name on your diploma may aid you in getting certain jobs such as in teaching, law and medicine- though no guarantee. Conversely and realistically however, a college degree is virtually worthless when it comes to making a name for yourself and securing employment as an artist, be it musician, painter, actor, or filmmaker. I've got nothing against a college education, cheap or expensive, but...

A college education from even the "best" university can no more buy you success as an artist (as well as other things) than money can buy you a ticket into heaven.

There is more than a little truth in the ironic quotation: "Those who can, DO. Those who can't, TEACH." (And I am a teacher admitting this, who also knows some great teachers). Granted, many teachers at many schools impart knowledge and wisdom. But valid teachers are not limited to those who lecture in front of a class of fifty or more students at $1000 a semester credit. For every successful artist who secures a college diploma, there are millions upon millions who have not, even with the most prestigious award from the most celebrated of ivy halls. The secret of artistic success is not to be found in the classroom listening to the advice of teachers who themselves are unable or uninterested in making a living doing art. Better to go directly to those who actually KNOW. Observe successful artists themselves at work in their medium.

Woody Allen, who indeed was enrolled in New York University for a time, in fact failed in his class "Motion Picture Production."

If we look at historical examples in music for instance, Bach and Beethoven learned the mastery of their art by studying the manuscripts and music of their predecessors directly, by practicing the music and by copying. Stravinsky studied directly from professor Rimsey-Korsakov, but did not bother to attend university and all its convolutions himself. One can listen all day to someone lecturing about the theory and history of music and not learn a fraction of the practical wisdom to be gained by actually playing a page of Mozart.

In examples of immortal genius, the notion that inventive artists such as Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Charlie Chaplin, Federico Fellini, Vincent Van Gogh, or Pablo Picasso learned and evolved their art pursuing an official diploma is absurd. They were PIONEERS who wrote the BOOK.

Film master Alfred Hitchcock got his university degree in engineering and navigation of all things, unrelated to his eventual career. Fellini, perhaps one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, attended no university at all.

All of these legendary people learned and created by doing and thinking for themselves, directly jumping into their chosen field rather than sidestepping into an official sanctioned education.

In terms of monetary success many of today's highest paid Oscar winning actors, such as Julia Roberts and Tom Cruise never went beyond high school.

These days, to achieve a liberal arts education one must spend an inordinate amount of time doing other things such as taking tests in biology, math, and other subjects quite unrelated to one's chosen field. A diploma is a rather indirect method to achieving one's goal, and may very well retard it considerably.

Obviously there is nothing wrong with a college education, and there are many elements of submersing oneself in an atmosphere of learning that is truly beneficial. I had a generally good time at college. But getting a diploma is not to be confused with the serious pursuit of one's chosen art form, and college is not a substitute for and nothing to do at the sacrifice of genuine opportunity.

College and university study is unfortunately something many young people are hypnotized into thinking is essential by our rather uncreative sheep-in-a-line culture. Young people often enter into college encouraged by high school teachers and counselors who themselves have not excelled in their own field of study.

Well intentioned (god bless 'em) parents may encourage their children to gain entrance into a university, any university (but the fancier the better if they can afford it), because frankly they don't know what else to tell their kid. At least the parent of a college student can say and think with guitless relief "My kid went to a really good college" (so I must be doing my job as good mom and dad). Who has time to really think about where things really lead, eh?

"I want to be independent and free, so I will go to college and get away from my parents and do what I want."
Uh huh, yeah.

"This college has a beautiful campus and lots of trees."
Please, go to Yellowstone. Not only is it way more impressive, but it's a lot cheaper to get into then Yale.

Alas, higher education is frequently a misleading and false security blanket. Graduates from even the most expensive and prestigious universities often walk away in cap and gown, diploma in hand, and scratch their head: "Ummm, now what do I do with THIS?" Before too long they may find that the shiny new $75,000 magna cum laude certificate is actually about as valuable as last years expired car registration. I know- I got one (though I didn't spend quite that much on it).

Even my own teacher, Dormant Brain Research and Development Laboratory director and founder T.D. Lingo exasperated and frustrated about the reality of his own university education finally dropped out of his Ph.D program because "They couldn't teach me what I wanted to know, because it hadn't been discovered yet."

Most new university students enter into school without really seeing it for what it really is- high school continued away from home. College can be more time to learn about the world and self, but it is often still merely the delay of REALLY getting into exploring and expressing oneself in life. Especially for artists.

I guess people just need parental substitutes, authority figures, or official looking pieces of paper printed in fancy Olde English lettering confirming passage through the final educational gaunlet that say:

"You did something. Congratulations."



Fancy or Real


In my own personal experience, I knew early on that I wanted to be a musician. By the time I was in fifth grade I was already composing my own music, without any kind of formal education. By the time I had entered music school, I was already receiving lowered grades for my originality in my compositions, and more than once I had to explain to my professors what I was doing.

My first year after high school I was accepted into the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver. This was a moderately prestigious school in my own region, as I had no desire to leave the comforts of home, local opportunities, and the support of my friends away at some strange out of state institution. Within two weeks of exposure to this school inhabited mostly by out of state rich kids, I was totally turned off by the atmosphere and completely disenchanted with the snobbery and lack of warmth by both the student body and faculty. It was education with a dollar sign above the door. I eventually dropped out of every class except for band in which I remained for a year. (Please note, recently I have received wonderful and warm cooperation from the Astronomy Department at D.U. who has been so kind to aid us in our current film project.Things may be different these days, I don't know about the other departments.)

A year later I enrolled at local Metropolitan State College and the University of Colorado at Denver, and found the atmosphere warm and REAL. The classrooms were scattered throughout the downtown triangle for the first few years, hidden in ordinary office buildings where you had to dodge the traffic going from the music building to the biology department lab. Although there were of a very significant number of students my own age, unlike all the "party schools" the average age of students here was around 28 years old. Here were real people, a wide variety in the student body, people with no experience at all sitting next to people with an experienced world view, kids who were freeloading at home taking classes with people who had to work while they went to school, gray haired professors in one room and teachers who actually gigged during the week to supplement their income in another.

At the trendy nearby Boulder Campus college life seemed to be as much about socializing in the dorms as anything. Conversely, people at Metro and UCD were there to actually learn and make a living.

When I now look at the people who taught and those who studied at my un-fancy Metro State, I find numerous examples of people who are top professionals in their field, recognized and respected. There are people I went to school with who now have global reputations such as guitar legend Bill Frisell with whom I played music and who played my compositions in student recitals. My jaw dropped and my brain spun in astonishment when I first heard the music of my composition teacher Paris Rutherford, who left the crazy world of L.A. to come do his thing in the quiet of Denver. I missed NOTHING going to school downtown - and I paid for my own education out of my own pocket to boot.

My best friend Robert left Colorado to chase the big time symphonic music business in Boston and study with Harvard music biggies there. He is now settled into his job as a radiology technician. I make my entire living with my music and writing.

In the artistic field of film and acting, one obviously plays and presents roles that more often than not concerns ordinary characters, working class people, people on the street. The art of acting itself relies primarily on observation and recreation of such characters rather than on some kind of magical "technique". So one must ask oneself if attending a university in which both the faculty and student body consists primarily of upper class privileged members of society is advantageous or instead a major hindrance to learning about all kinds of people.

If one's job is to be reflecting the life of all kinds of ordinary folk, it might be weighed that attendance at a working class university would give a far superior exposure to the life and experience of people rather than submersion in campus where the student body has a more narrow range of background and economic predisposition.

Even major film directors themselves who did attend film school refer to the obvious fact that successful filmmaking is not something that you learn in school. For every Steven Spielberg or George Lucas who graduated from UCLA, there are hundreds of thousands who went to the same school and who have accomplished nothing.

In the movie "Field of Dreams" the moral was "Build it and they will come." It seems that in the artistic life, itís more important what you dream and build yourself than what that framed paper you pin to wall says.





Where It's Happening

Perhaps the best example of where great art comes from can be found in the simple example of The Beatles and their undeniable success. Here were four formally "uneducated" young men who by the age of 21 turned the world upside down forever with their music, music that has already stood the test of time and will likely be enjoyed and remembered long into the next century.

The roots of their art is found in the music of American black musicians, of which they imitated. For years, John, Paul, George, and Ringo learned hundreds of songs by their favorite singers and songwriters. None of the Beatles (as well as most of their heros or mentors) ever learned to read or write a note of music nor studied music at a school. For years the yet unknown fab four spent three-hundred and fifty days a year doing shows in their native England then Europe, sleeping in their van and eating beans before conquering the world with their own versions of now famous songs.

But even more importantly and a key to their determination, these young men began simply as friends who grew up together and who shared something they enjoyed, supporting each other as brothers. They were unrelenting in their honest work ethic and dedication. The Beatles were not a product of a Hollywood star search commercial corporation conglomerate or university music school. They started out as kids who banded together as a TEAM as they pursued a common goal, and who eventually vowed to do it themselves the way they wanted to do it, not as "experts" deemed it proper. (Similarly like The Impressionist painters at the turn of the century who also made history; Monet, Gaugin, Cezanne and others- hmmm, there are a LOT of examples like this!).

They did not wholly reject the advice of people like George Martin, but they insisted on doing their own thing from the start, creating their own unique signature, recording original compositions, and made their own path as they went.

They made something immortal together as friends, discovering, creating, and making their art something entirely personal.

As Ringo summed it up so well decades later,
"We were four guys who loved each other, and that was pure magic."

There ain't no college or no diploma that can give you that at any price.

Aspiring artists, think about it.


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Your Amazing Brain Adventure is a web site all about Tickling Your Amygdala- i.e. turning on the best part of your brain as easy as clicking on a light switch. This is done as easily as imagining a feather inside of your head stimulating a compass, the amygdala. The amygdala is a set of twin organs, a part of your brain that sits right in between the most advance part of your brain- the frontal lobes and pre-frontal cortex- and the most primitive part of your brain- your "reptile brain" and brain stem.  By tickling your amygdala you instantly and directly increase creativity, intelligence, pleasure, and also make possible a spontaneous natural processes known as "paranormal abilities", although such things as telepathy and ESP are really as natural as breathing, or as easy doing simple math in your head. The ability to self stimulate the amygdala by something as simple as thought has been proven in laboratory experiments, such as those conducted at Harvard University research labs, 1999-2009, and can be tracked with modern brain scanning machines such as fMRI and PET... Indeed, thought is faster than light.

 

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