From the Head of School: Creativity Will Help Fuel the Future
A. Lee Burns ’87

At McCallie, we strive to make boys’ experiences relevant and meaningful every day while preparing them with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions they will need to thrive after they leave us.

The skills engendered through the study, making, and participation in the arts are essential for, as many describe our times, the age of turbulence – a time of continuous uncertainty and fast-paced change. Creativity can be defined as the ability to see what others might miss and to put things together in new ways – in other words, problem-solving. Studies show that creative people are better able to live with uncertainty because they can adapt their thinking to allow for the flow of the unknown. The last eleven months, which have been filled with research, planning, and adjusting our way through the coronavirus pandemic, is a tremendous example of creativity at work.

Through diligent and creative efforts, McCallie has been able to continue in-person learning on our campus since the start of the 2020–21 school year. We reconfigured our classrooms, dining hall, and gathering spaces so that social distancing can be maintained. We outfitted the quadrangle with outdoor seating areas and dozens of McCallie-blue Adirondack chairs spread six feet apart to encourage as much outdoor gathering as possible. I want to thank the many people who have worked so hard to keep our campus open, our boys thriving, and our school community healthy throughout the fall.

This fall, both the cross country and football teams earned state championships for the second straight year. Adhering to coronavirus protocols and guidelines was a must for both teams. Weekly games and meets were susceptible to sudden cancellation out of an abundance of caution. Nonetheless, the runners and players found their grooves. Congratulations to both teams for providing these bright spots in a challenging fall. The crew, climbing, and squash seasons were canceled completely due to the pandemic. We look forward to their return next year.

Believing in the education of the whole boy, the triumvirate of learning at McCallie is academics, athletics, and the arts. The arts are essential, not add-ons. Study and participation in the arts teach innumerable habits, skills, and mindsets. Observation skills, focused and sustained attention, the cycle of trial, error, and adjustment, empathy, collaboration, and rigorous discipline are top of mind. Whether performing in Candlelight, learning to cross-hatch in art, utilizing the forge safely, practicing classical guitar, engaging in proper stand etiquette in an ensemble, storyboarding a film, or expressing desolation through lethargic body movement and vacant glares at one’s scene partner, the arts demand excellence and require tremendous personal investment.

Boys learn by doing, and re-doing, and doing again until they have discovered how to communicate an idea, render an envisioned object, or express the right emotional resonance. A boy develops persistence and confidence in his own thinking, patience, and growing abilities along the way. There is great excitement when he accomplishes something that was difficult. Growing and developing in the arts is similar to the rigorous practice and training a sports team undergoes as well as akin to the hypothesis and experimentation that occurs in a science lab. Boys at McCallie really like their arts courses, and most boys participate in the arts throughout their McCallie career.

McCallie understands and believes that a boy’s education would be unbalanced and incomplete without the study of arts.

The world needs creativity because problems are not getting simpler. Complex problems require new, custom solutions. The issues of the pandemic are complex. Creative thinking has been necessary to develop treatments and vaccines. With creativity, we learn to stop relying on what has always been. We learn to perceive the aspects of the problem in ways we could not see before. Instead of looking at what is or what has been, we start looking at what might be. Creative thinking will help bring our society solutions for the dilemmas of social justice which have rightfully burst into present consciousness.

When we think creatively, when we compose, play, or study music, when we paint, sculpt, design, or act, we open our hearts and minds. We are more alive and more reflective. We can be more expressive and worship God. We live in our most humane and loving ways, with more passion and empathy. At McCallie, we are engaging in deeper observation, questioning, learning, and envisioning the future with determination to create the fullest lived experience possible of our values, community, and brotherhood.

McCallie understands and believes that a boy’s education would be unbalanced and incomplete without the study of arts. Arts are good for the heart and the soul. The arts support the expression of feelings that are difficult to put into words. There is a great vulnerability at play when a boy exposes his creative self and work to criticism. And great confidence is built when a boy is able to act on what feedback is offered to deepen his understanding, skill level, and opportunity to make and express meaning. We all need a balance between our head and heart, and creativity is the link between the two. I hope you enjoy reading about the immense breadth and depth of our arts offerings.

Creativity will help fuel the future.

On McCallie...and Onward McCallie.

A. Lee Burns III ’87
Head of School


(Photo caption)
BACK ON THE RIDGE Head of School Lee Burns ’87 addresses students at Convocation in August 2020.