The Camerata Classroom

In the late 1500’s, a group of academics, musicians, singers, poets, and dramatists gathered in Florence regularly to study the music, poetry, and theatre of the ancient Greeks in order to better understand the artforms and to apply their findings to their own works.  The group became known historically as the Camerata, which is somewhat loosely defined as “camaraderie.”   The result of their combined efforts was development of early operatic form, which paved the way for the rise of even greater operas throughout the following centuries.  (Yes, I actually remembered this from my bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in music.  Dr. Daily, Dr. Hancock, and Dr. Wilson would be so proud of me!)

The Camerata approach can be seen throughout artistic history.  In France near the turn of the 20th century, a group of visual artists met regularly to share their works with one another in order to receive feedback hoping that they could improve and have their paintings selected for the Salon exhibition.  This particular group didn’t find success in getting their paintings into the Salon, so they started their own show.  The group is now generally regarded as the Impressionists.  

In England in the 1930’s and 1940’s, a group of authors met regularly to review each others’ writings and to provide feedback regarding all things literary.  The informal group, known as the Inklings, contained some authors we now consider to be literary giants in the areas of narrative and fantasy:  C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, Owen Barfield, and J. R. R. Tolkien. 

The commonality among these creative undertakings is something we can bring into our classrooms: community.  Creativity needs community to fully develop, and your classroom can provide that sense of community.  In the book Sparking Student Creativity, author Patty Drapeau reminds teachers that they can foster that sense of community necessary for creative maturation by developing and redeveloping groups in a variety of forms (small, whole, ability, cooperative, flexible) in order to support students as they grow creatively.

As you prepare for next week, think of ways that you can create a Camerata community in your classroom.  Who knows, you may give rise to the next great writer, painter, actor, or musician!

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