Exploring the Creative Process with Paul Jarman

"May your decisions reflect your hopes, not your fears."

Known for his captivating melodies and storytelling abilities, renowned composer Paul Jarman recently embarked on another special project with our school: the creation of a unique school anthem. Having been familiar with the school and its exceptional music staff for many years, Jarman expressed his deep connection to the institution. “I’ve known the school very well for quite some time. Many of the teachers have been singing my music for 15-20 years,” he remarked.

Continuing our coverage of Paul’s visit to the school, Paul shares his insights into the creative process of writing school anthems and his experience working with diverse audiences. 

Writing a school anthem that resonates with various age groups and expectations can be challenging. Paul emphasised the need to understand the desires and expectations of the diverse audience, including senior students, teachers, alums, parents, and children of all ages. “The challenge is to understand what they want and expect, even if they might not know it themselves because the song hasn’t been created yet,” Paul explained. 

Drawing from his experience in writing over a hundred school anthems, Paul’s collaborative approach involves immersing himself in the school’s environment and engaging with the students. Despite the challenges posed by busy schedules, he ensures he spends ample time at the school, interacting with as many students as possible. To foster collaboration, a shared platform, such as Google Drive, is set up for teachers and students to contribute ideas. 

Paul finds inspiration in the heartfelt thoughts and experiences shared by the community. He expressed the joy of writing an anthem through the collective feelings and stories of approximately 1,350 IGS individuals, give the students a sense of ownership and pride in their song.

One significant lesson Paul has learned throughout his extensive school visits and residencies is to avoid succumbing to fear during the creative process. Reflecting on past creative blocks, he admitted to questioning whether he could deliver something that truly resonated with school audiences. However, he emphasises the need to let go of doubts and focus on the present moment. Quoting Nelson Mandela, he said, “May your decisions reflect your hopes, not your fears.” This positive mindset allows him to approach the creative process with clarity and authenticity, enabling the truth to emerge and creating a genuine connection with students.

Incorporating the students’ ideas and experiences is a crucial aspect of the creative process. Paul shared, “Just yesterday, I bumped into a lovely girl and her friend in another part of the school. I asked her the first thing she felt when she came here to IGS, as she had recently come from another school. She said, ‘I felt genuinely loved for who I am.’ That’s a beautiful sentiment, one that will definitely find its place in the song.”

The school anthem will revolve around themes of language, learning, diversity, and love. Paul perceives the school as a vibrant hub, organically spreading inspiration throughout the cityscape. He envisions returning to IGS again in five years to witness how this inspiration has continued to grow and flourish. Paul’s exploration of the school’s space and energy, with children sharing their experiences and teachers supporting their growth, informs the composition, creating a living, breathing reflection of the community.

The school’s rich history of hard work, resilience, and community spirit plays a significant role in the composition. From its early days, when parents and teachers contributed to ensure its survival, to the present, where the same values endure, Paul seeks to capture the essence of this remarkable journey.

To create a timeless anthem, Paul encourages students to appreciate and explore music that can stand the test of time. It’s fascinating to see how older school songs, written decades ago, still resonate with students today, even if students do not yet fully understand the historical context. To achieve timelessness, Paul tasks students to explore and appreciate songs that have touched hearts for generations. Melodies like Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Danny Boy, or those from iconic musicals by Rogers and Hammerstein or George Gershwin continue to evoke emotions even after a century. 

Throughout the creative process, Paul instils in the students an understanding of what makes a song enduring and memorable. In turn, the school composition aims to embody the essence of IGS and leave a lasting impact on everyone involved.