When it comes to living a creative life, Catherine Stoodley sets a benchmark. As a Creative Arts graduate, she started out as a Music Educator and Performer based in the Blue Mountains, and now through hard work and study, while raising four children with her husband Justen (also amazingly creative!), she has transformed herself into a Music Therapist and has set herself to see lives transformed through music. I really loved hearing Catherine’s thoughts on the life-changing power of creativity and I think you’ll be inspired by her thoughts too!
What does creativity mean to you?
I think creativity is a part of who I am and how I express myself. I find that being creative, especially through music, helps me to keep grounded. Also I find that experiencing the creativity of other people inspires me.
What’s your earliest memory of knowing that you’re creative?
I can’t really pinpoint a time where I thought, “Yeah, gee I’m creative!,” but I can look back now and see that quite early on I was expressing myself through creative ways. I believe that not long after I walked I was dancing!
As soon as I was able to make some form of music I was doing that as well. And I think it’s just been this integral part of my life.
I grew up in a household that was creative anyway. My mother sang and played the piano and my father was a pianist as well. So it was just part of daily life I suppose. I look back and I have images of maybe being four or five and just really enjoying making music, listening to music and I have early memories of playing the piano and actually creating songs myself, probably at about eight or nine years old.
What have been the struggles with stepping into creativity?
I think self-doubt always comes into play, particularly when you’re a teenager, from a singing perspective, perhaps more so than others, because it can make you particularly vulnerable, using your voice. I was always conscious of the way I would be perceived, or how my voice would be perceived.
I think the hardest challenge for me was convincing my father that I needed to go to university to continue music because, well he was a frustrated musician himself, by trade he was a teacher, and he wanted me to earn a living, which was very loving. But I felt like he wasn’t really understanding my absolute need to pursue music, knowing in my soul that this was what I really needed to do. But he allowed me to go!
Down the track, I guess its financial, a lot of the time.
I went to a Christian college for studying my degree in music. A lot of the people I had in my cohort were using music for the church and for ministry purposes, whereas I had this feeling in my spirit that that wasn’t what I wasn’t going to be doing.
I struggled with that for the first year or so, because everyone around me was heading towards leading worship in church. But I thought that there’s something else out there for me. Not that I’m saying that leading worship in church is a bad thing because I’ve done that too, but I just knew there was something more that God had planned.
I felt released from that sense that I was only going to be a musician in church when there was a visiting speaker at our college and he was a Christian artist, but he then spoke over us and said that some of you are actually going into the secular industry with this gifting that you have and I just found in my heart God was saying , “that’s you!.” And I thought, hang on, this was affirming the feeling that the creativity that God’s given me will be used for another purpose.
What connection is there between your creativity and your spirituality?
I think it’s very connected, I think it’s one essentially. There’s a performance side of it, so when I’m performing music there’s an element of taking on a persona in a sense. But my hearts always connected. There’s always a sense of my heart connecting to the lyrics and the music that I’m making, and I’m well aware that it’s a gift from God as well. So I’m mindful of what I do, particularly on stage.
But in a therapeutic sense, now that I’ve gone down this path of music therapy, I know that I know that I know that music is extremely powerful, right down to the notes that you play and whatever form you make them in. Whatever rhythm that you make, there is something God breathed in music.
What do you hope will be the impact of your music and creativity?
I know that the elements of creativity that were given to me by God are for me to worship Him to serve Him. But it’s also not just loving on Him in that practical sense but also stretching out into touching the lives of other people, and I hope I’ve done that performance-wise, and I’m now embarking on this new career in music therapy.
My heart is that music will change the lives of countless people and not just the lives of those who are directly affected, but their families as well. I think that music is an extremely powerful force that we don’t even understand.
I’ve seen music touch the lives of people in a way that nothing else has, for example, even on a critical placement, I’ve seen an elderly gentleman suffering from later stage dementia, and essentially bed-ridden and non-responsive, but take a drum round to him and make music and all of a sudden he’s holding a stick and able to tap on the drum! Later that evening his wife would then say, “he’s been to music hasn’t he?” because his whole personality has changed and he can actually speak some words. So she knew that he had done some form of music in that day. Again, I think there’s a power in music, or there’s a power in that creativity or connection which can manifest in different ways. And hopefully change lives for the better.
What would be your best advice for someone who wants to step out into a creative dream?
It’s really cliché to say, just do it, but if that’s part of who you are, if that’s really one of the biggest parts of your life and you feel like you can’t do anything else, you’ve got to pursue it and you’ve go to believe that God will put you in the right place at the right time using those gifts.
There’s going to be hard times along the way, there’s going to be massive hurdles potentially, and certain creativity expressed through certain jobs doesn’t always earn you a high pay, and you don’t always get the white picket fence in certain careers. But if you are already a creative person and it is part of who you are, then there’s really nothing else you can do, if you ignore it long enough you start to not be very happy because you are denying this massive part of who you are.
Photography by Justen Stoodley of Cardigan Street Photography.
What has been your experience of the power of music?
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