Nurturing creativity and wellbeing – Benee’s advice for students

Issue: Volume 99, Number 9

Posted: 11 June 2020
Reference #: 1HA8Dh

For award-winning Kiwi singer-songwriter Benee (Stella Bennett), lockdown was a chance to let her creativity flourish. Here, she shares with Education Gazette her advice to students on nurturing their creativity and managing stress and anxiety.


Q: What was your experience of lockdown?

Benee: “I mean I think… from talking to my friends, all of us have been feeling really anxious. The whole lockdown thing’s been really scary and weird. I felt kind of caged not being able to get out and stuff. I definitely (experienced) being scared and the whole anxiety thing.”

Q: How did you cope with those feelings of anxiety?

“I have found so much comfort in writing songs and in music… it’s like a diary out of my head for me, you know? You can say anything, and that has been really helpful. I can write a couple of songs and then think, gee I feel really good.”

Q: So your creativity flourished during lockdown?

“I set up a little studio in my room and I had more time. I’ve got my guitar and used Logic on my computer. I was able to go into the studio too… but really, all you need is a microphone to record with. I even used the mic on my computer! You can use GarageBand (Mac) for recording at home too – it’s free and you don’t even have to download anything.”

Q: So has one of the advantages of being stuck in lockdown meant you were able to finish a song from start to finish with fewer interruptions?

“Weirdly yes! Like I wasn’t running around and there weren’t lots of distractions, so yeah I can focus on a song and it’s nice! So maybe yes...
I can now get a whole song done pretty fast on my own. When I’m in the studio, I have really good producers – Josh Fountain and Djeisan Suskov; they are wizards on production, and they’ll whip up a beat, but yeah,
I think I have gotten faster.”

Q: How important are your producers?

“They’re incredibly important, it’s crazy. For example I’ve been working with Josh now for at least three years; he’s taught me so much about how to craft a song. You need to have a really good relationship with producers because you know as a songwriter I’m sharing my ideas and I’m very vulnerable.”

Q: You made the bold move a while back to change direction two weeks into a new tertiary course. Tell us about how you navigated your learning pathway. 

“I thought I had it all figured out, you know? I liked school and I wanted to go to uni. But when I got there, to be honest, I just felt like it would be the worst thing to keep going. I just knew if I didn’t follow through and give myself the chance to try it (music) then I’d be unhappy and I didn’t want that… I mean, if you have the chance to be happy and follow what you really love, it is definitely worth it.”

Q: How can teachers help nurture students’ creativity? 

“… for me, I have dyslexia, I struggled in English even though I loved writing. I wish I’d had assignments with more freedom… I needed more options that were creative, more free thinking. I loved creative writing, but the topics were always ones the teachers got to choose, and the guidelines were really strict… but the best stuff you write, always comes from what you’re interested in – I mean look at song writing.”

Q: If you were given a class of students to work with, what would you do?

“I think that song writing should be a big part of the curriculum. And
there should be assignments where students can write a song and sing or perform their work. It’s creative writing, it doesn’t have to be done a certain way.”

Q: What would be your top writing tips for the poets, storytellers and songwriters out there?  

“What kind of works for me, whether I’m humming or out walking, is just jotting down random ideas, it might just be one word or one little idea. Record everything, put it in your phone notes, your diary, write it all down, and if you have a beat, voice memo it, it’s just really important to record all the ideas you have when they pop up.”

Q: Where to from here for you, post-Covid lockdown? 

“Well, I was supposed to be on tour this whole time [lockdown] so that got put on hold, but Covid has meant New Zealand artists have been networking and talking together. I’ve definitely been thinking. I am so keen to put on a show!”

Q: What is your top tip for students who are feeling anxious about school, assessments and their future pathways?  

“I think the important thing is to tell people. I think a lot of people are feeling the same way. For me and my friends, they reached out to me. Everyone’s in the same weird, scary waka, and it’s ok to feel anxious. Just speak to someone about it, keep Zooming; it’ll be ok.”


BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 1:33 pm, 11 June 2020

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