On Wisdom

November 1, 1996

My father was an artist. He never spread paint on a canvas, played an instrument, or wrote a poem. But he was an artist, and he was wise. Each day was his canvas, the spirit of adventure was his instrument, and his simple faith that we can accomplish anything we really want to do was pure poetry. I feel that I could write my own version of "All I Really Need to Know I Learned . . . From My Father." Perhaps some day I will. For the moment, as this column marks my last one as your CMS President, I want to take a few moments to reflect on the past two years and share with you my good fortune in having discovered that artistry and wisdom were not confined exclusively to my father. Indeed, your collective wisdom has awed and humbled me.

In Jamaica they know exactly how wisdom was spread. Once upon a time, it is said in Jamaica, Anansi thought it would be quite useful if he could collect all the wisdom in the world. He ran around collecting all the wisdom he could find and put it all into one huge calabash until it was full. He then hung the calabash from his neck so that it rested on his belly and started climbing a tree to hide it from everyone else. With the calabash in the way of his efforts, however, he was not able to climb too well. A little boy who had been watching Anansi burst into laughter. "How foolish! If you want to climb the tree frontways, why don't you put the calabash behind you?" Anansi was so angry to hear that big piece of wisdom coming from a little boy after he thought he had collected it all, that he took off the calabash, threw it down breaking it into many pieces, and the wisdom scattered into the breeze all over the world. Everybody got a little bit of it, but no one got it all.

The wonderful thing about this is that from my father I learned that wisdom is artistry applied to daily life. In the last two years I learned that wisdom is even more powerful when it is the collective wisdom of many people. It has been my good fortune to have had the opportunity of working shoulder to shoulder with the remarkable individuals of the CMS Board, Committees, and National Office. I have also had the privilege of getting to know many of you who generously offered ideas, opinions, and feedback.

Much has happened within CMS in the last two years as a result of our collective work. The recent reorganization of CMS has gathered all membership services and activities under a unified, coherent umbrella. We have embraced technology and established a powerful presence on the Internet, improving our database services, communication links, and delivery of services. We have strengthened our collaborative bond with other music professional societies, beginning plans to hold a collective meeting of impressive proportions in the autumn of the year 2000, as well as working together with several groups on advocacy efforts for the arts and professional issues. We have taken decisive steps toward a stronger international presence through the establishment of biennial meetings abroad. Of course, we continue to create opportunities in a variety of forums to advocate for music as a necessary part of every American's education, and we continue to foster our individual growth and the expansion of perspectives within our own musical subdisciplines.

My father used to place near-sacred importance on formal education. Attending school and "doing well" was very important, but so was returning periodically to school to learn new things. CMS places similar importance on our need for continuing education, sponsoring institutes and other opportunities for our professional development. Yet, my father used to say that only a portion of what is there to be learned can be found in a classroom; the rest can be found in everything we experience, as long as we keep our eyes and ears open. Collaboration with a group of remarkable people like you, my friends, is a stimulating and mind-opening experience which a man like my father would have treasured, and for which I am most grateful.

Despite a healthily cautious character, my father never shied away from taking risks when it seemed appropriate. He generally enjoyed the unexpected surprises thrown at him in life, and he taught me to enjoy embracing change. That spirit of adventure tempered by thoughtfulness I have again found among you, as we have together embraced many changes that propel us into the next century.

My father used to tell me constantly that I could do anything I really wanted to do, while determination and hard work would be the tools to help me achieve it. I see this proven every day in your professional achievements. Furthermore, the determination and hard work of our Board, Committees, and National Office staff continue to make CMS a society that is full of vitality and at the forefront of our professional lives.

Thank you for having placed your trust in me and for having given me this invaluable opportunity to serve you.

1646 Last modified on November 19, 2013
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