A Musical New Year’s Resolution for 2018
By Mike Blakeslee, NAfME CEO and Executive Director
It’s that time of year again. It’s time for New Year’s resolutions.
Many, if not most, New Year’s resolutions seem to be about things not to do. Often, these things seem to be centered around overeating and wasting time. But because most music educators seem to be a pretty trim lot (probably from all that exercise moving stands and chairs), and I don’t know of any who have that much disposable time left over from their lives as teachers, it’s probably more useful to talk about things that we should do.
For me, these “should do” items center around our mission of promoting the understanding and making of music by all. But I have the great good fortune to spend my days surrounded by staff and members who are all devoted to that enormous task. From the classroom to the stage, from the research study to the administrative staffing chart, we are all doing our part.
Now, that’s not to say that we can’t do more: We all know that the current political and fiscal situation in some of our communities can make the idea of music for all seem elusive. That’s why music educators routinely add to their duties as educators the additional track of work as advocates. We need to continue that work, but I think that we can resolve to do it with a renewed sense of joy.
This idea came to me when listening to the November 2017 performance of the NAfME All-National Honor Ensembles in Florida. More than 600 students in a concert band, jazz band, mixed choir, and symphony orchestra performed with a focus and sense of purpose that I don’t get to experience nearly often enough. And after the performances, the comments from parents and students mixed excitement over the performance with a large sample of talk about the need to advocate for music for the students who still are underserved in our art. These students—and their parents—understood clearly how important music is in their lives and specifically how they need to help make it part of every student’s life.
I know this because they told me so, time and again. And that leads to my resolution for the year:
I will let the joy of music making inform and inflame my work to support music for all.
Now, though it’s probably not really appropriate for me to make resolutions for others, I think that this is something that can be a part of each and every member’s year. In helping guide students’ hands on a violin, in directing an ensemble to find the right vocal blend, in facilitating the first efforts at composition by a class, or in mentoring a student teacher, there is a kind of fulfilment that can’t be found anywhere else. We can use that sense of fulfilment, that sense of joy, to renew our efforts to do what we do and to advocate for the right of every child to grow and develop through our efforts.
And if we carry that sense of the joy of music learning and making into our advocacy, we just may find that we can infect some of the most doctrinaire proponents of restrictive educational budgets and practices with a little bit of that joy. Of course, we’ll have to follow up with statistics and all the minutia of policy making. But we can’t forget the key advantage that we carry with us always.
The joy of music.
NAfME CEO & Executive Director, Mike Blakeslee