On the Mission of CMS

March 1, 1997

At its meeting last October the Board adopted a new Mission Statement for The College Music Society. The wording was worked out by Board members J. Peter Burkholder (musicology) and Robert Weirich (performance), who deserve special thanks, but it draws together ideas from the whole Board.

The new statement is more concise and, I think, more precise than former one(s). I'd like to point out three of its main points.

The statement begins by describing the breadth of the Society's membership. It notes that members are individual persons with a variety of affiliations—colleges, conservatories, universities—as well as independent musicians and scholars. This makes clear that CMS is not an organization of institutions (like the National Association of Schools of Music) nor primarily a network that links other professional societies (like the American Council of Learned Societies), but a group of real people, who bring to it their talents, personal experiences, and aspirations. The Society's purpose, then, is to share knowledge and work together to assist each other, both in our growth in our discipline and in our professional effectiveness.

The statement further positions The College Music Society in regard to where it sees itself and to its attitudes. It recognizes that, both among ourselves and in the world at large, we work amid tremendous diversity and it does not regard that diversity as an obstacle or problem but rather as a source of strength and opportunity. Diversity should thus not be blended into sameness but cultivated and encouraged. Moreover, the statement places the Society in time, where our musical heritages and our future challenges become two touch-points toward which we reach continuously.

Finally, the statement emphasizes how The College Music Society works. First, among the music disciplines it encourages growth within each and cross-fertilization among all the areas in which we work. In addition to the seven disciplines represented by its Board members and their advisory committees—composition, ethnomusicology/world music, music education, music in general studies, musicology, music theory, and performance—CMS has committees to focus on cross-disciplinary concerns, including cultural diversity, women and gender, technology. No other organization offers this wealth of resources and ideas. When one imagines all the combinations and permutations of the disciplines, the possibilities for fruitful exchanges and collaborations expand exponentially.

When we consider how we apply these goals, we can see that The College Music Society takes its missions seriously and undertakes them energetically.

The mission statement emphasizes that The College Music Society "exists to support its members in their professional and pedagogical goals." Undoubtedly the most obvious tool the Society has provided over the years for this purpose has been the Music Vacancy List, the most valuable resource for anyone seeking a position in music in higher education. (I often testify to the value of the MVL, since it led me to my present position nearly twenty years ago.) The list has expanded rapidly over the years; now that it is available electronically, it is even more helpful. This is not the only way in which CMS works to support its members, however. With a new Committee on Student Concerns and an emphasis on mentoring for both aspiring and established professionals, CMS will not only help locate positions but assist members who are preparing for and progressing in their careers. The Committee on Professional Development organizes CMS workshops and summer institutes to help members respond to new ideas, retool for changing situations, and refresh their knowledge and skills.

The forums CMS provides for disseminating ideas range from meetings, to print, to recordings, to electronic media. The Annual Meetings of the Society each fall and the meetings of the regional Chapters each spring are crucial for lively, face-to-face conversation among members. Our journal, College Music Symposium, and the CMS Newsletter have always served us as organs for scholarly research, exchange of ideas, and reports. Publications such as the CMS Reports on professional issues and the Monographs and Bibliographies in American Music provide more in-depth coverage on an occasional basis. The CBS Records' Black Composers Series of recordings, which the Society issued with Ford Foundation funding, exemplifies the way in which CMS has taken the lead in important areas that need support. Now, with the electronic capabilities of the National Office growing, the opportunity for on-line networking and discussion groups offers new possibilities.

So CMS has valuable and clearly articulated missions, as well as well-established and active programs and facilities to carry them out.

The remaining component is the commitment and involvement of the members, both individually and collectively. We all know that some academics manage to coast through careers with no real musical and intellectual growth or response to the changing world of our students and our culture. Not CMS members, though! Our members, like the Society they form, believe in finding, facing, and meeting challenges. They want to keep growing personally and professionally, and to bring both the richness of our music traditions and the most positive and imaginative new thinking to the discipline, to new generations of students, and to new situations and needs in our culture. To do this, they look to CMS

  • for opportunities to share their own compositions, performances, research, teaching techniques with colleagues;
  • for ways to seek guidance from and/or give guidance to fellow professionals or the next generation of colleagues;
  • to see more clearly the needs and challenges of our changing culture, and to work together on creative new ways to meet those needs and challenges;

A well-conceived and well-written mission statement is a platform. It is not, though, a platform in the sense of a place of arrival on which we can rest. Instead it forms a take-off point from which we can launch ourselves toward even greater things. I am grateful for all that so many members do to make CMS effective and exciting. Keep up the good work!


1885 Last modified on November 19, 2013
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