Familiar Tunes

I enter the CMS presidency at a time of perhaps the greatest cliché in our history: "Into the Next Millennium." How many times have we heard that, or one of its derivatives? Time, of course, has no millennium markers—neither do the animals nor inanimate objects (except for our computers). The millennium cliché is a cultural and commercial marker; it helps us identify ourselves as progressive creatures, ever moving forward to greater heights (another cliché).

I also enter the CMS presidency as, I believe, the first degree-holding ethnomusicologist, although many of my predecessors are also renowned ethnomusicologists in their own right (especially former Presidents Fernández, Lundquist, McLucas, Seaton, Willoughby, and others). I think that probably all musicians are ethnomusicological to a certain degree, because all musicians are interested in the processes of making, listening to, reacting to, and thinking about music. Therefore, to replace the old familiar tune "Into the Next Millennium," I would like to suggest a new motto: "Into the World."

Into the World

The College Music Society has gone "Into the World" now for quite some time. I think it began in earnest when it emphasized the ethnic diversity of its national meeting sites. Another "world" interest has been to follow the routes (roots) of jazz in several of its national meetings. CMS has had the innovative perspective of realizing that the United States is a microcosm of the world and that probably most of the world's cultures are now a part of and contribute to American culture.

Very recently, "Into the World" has had a physical and geographic reality to it as well, as the CMS summer international conferences continue with great success. Thanks to Gerald Farmer, the 1995 Berlin Conference was very successful, as was the Vienna conference in 1997. Under the able guidance of Tod Trimble, and the leadership of Art Tollefson as chairman of the International Committee, we anticipate the 1999 Kyoto conference to be equally exciting and educational.

The 1998 Annual Meeting in Puerto Rico also revealed our great interest in going "Into the World." Again we applaud the CMS staff for handling with such great skill the difficult turn of events leading up to that meeting, and I am proud that so many CMS members expressed their concern for the well being of the Puerto Ricans who suffered because of Hurricane Georges. I do think our presence there helped boost the economy of the island in a small way.

Words of the Wise

As a way of paying tribute to the beautiful island of Puerto Rico, I would like to share this quote from Pablo Casals, a name many hold to be synonymous with the best in musical artistry. I think you will also agree that this quote is also synonymous with what is the best in being human.

I am a person first, an artist second. As a person, my first obligation is to the welfare of my fellow people. I will endeavor to meet this obligation through music—the means which God has given me—since it transcends language, politics and national boundaries. My contribution to world peace may be small, but at least I will have given all I can to an ideal I hold sacred.

Like many narratives I will borrow from to inspire my presidential commentaries, this one has tremendous relevance for us as members of The College Music Society. It is perhaps one the most important goals of the College Music Society to be obligated to the welfare of our fellow humans through music.

This is indeed an exciting time to be a member of The College Music Society. I urge all who read this letter to share my enthusiasm with your colleagues and to invite them to join CMS if they are not already members. I also look forward to the next two years as your President, and it is indeed a great honor to serve in that capacity. Please send your ideas to me via my email address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or send your responses to the Newsletter editor.

Best wishes and Happy New Year! I wish you all a great 1999. May you and your computers be totally virus free as we approach the next millennium and move "Into the World."


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Last modified on Tuesday, 19/11/2013

Dale A. Olsen

Dale A. Olsen is Professor Emeritus at Florida State University, where he taught ethnomusicology for 35 years. He received B.A. and M.A. degrees in historical musicology and flute performance from the University of Minnesota and the Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from UCLA. Dr. Olsen is a recipient of Fulbright-Hays, Guggenheim, National Endowment for the Humanities, Distinguished Research Professor, and many other awards and grants. His major books include Music of the Warao of Venezuela: Song People of the Rain Forest (winner of the 1997 Merriam Prize for the "Most Outstanding Book in Ethnomusicology"); Music of El Dorado: The Ethnomusicology of Ancient South American Cultures; The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, Vol. 2; The Garland Handbook of Latin American Music; The Chrysanthemum and the Song: Music, Memory, and Identity in the South American Japanese Diaspora; and Popular Music of Vietnam: The Politics of Remembering, The Economics of Forgetting. Dr. Olsen was principal flutist in the Philharmonic Orchestra of Chile from 1966-68 and in the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra in 1970. He has traveled, lived, and conducted fieldwork throughout Latin America; East Asia; Southeast Asia; Polynesia; Europe; and North America. He has served on the Council, Board of Directors, and as First Vice President of the Society for Ethnomusicology; as Board Member for Ethnomusicology/World Music and National President of The College Music Society; as President of the Florida Folklore Society; and as President of the Southeastern-Caribbean Chapter of SEM.

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