As I begin my term as President of CMS, I am reminded of the Mission Statement of our great organization and how clearly it reflects the hopes that so many of us hold for the music and higher education community. All of us working for CMS continually ask, “How can the Society better or more completely carry out its mission in order to provide stronger and more effective service to our profession?”
The contents of CMS Fourms demonstrate the strength of The College Music Society and its ability to contribute significantly to our field. It is my hope that CMS will not only continue its historic mission but will also fully develop into a dynamic force for change in American cultural life. Currently, American culture is experiencing a cycle of aesthetic poverty. This condition is marked by society’s (1) seemingly universal desire for the most immediate and primal forms of artistic expression and communication at the exclusion of the deeper and more meaningful forms; (2) serious deterioration in the expectation of quality and decency in culture; and (3) the contribution of the symptoms of this cycle to the sources of some of our society’s greatest problems (crime, homelessness, depression, etc.). Our professional community must now turn more of its attention toward breaking this cycle. Our culture desperately needs the practitioners of our field to take a greater role in sustaining meaning and quality in mainstream American life.
Could a new devotion to promoting education in music bring about a cultural revolution in our country? Could successes here be shared with other music professionals around the world? For too long I think we have believed the answers to these questions were “no” yet professional musicians can not prove that “no” is a correct answer because we have not, at any time, devoted ourselves to the goal of promoting education in music like we must. Now is that time.
I suggest CMS adopt the following as a new goal: To Establish a Culture of Living and Learning In and Through Music to Improve the Lives of Americans. I am proposing that this be our primary goal over the course of the next two years, and I believe we should consider four separate objectives to meet it. Two of these objectives reflect the traditional work of CMS, and two are new but nonetheless embedded deeply in the historical purposes of our fine society.
GOAL: The College Music Society will Establish a Culture of Living and Learning In and Through Music to Improve the Lives of Americans by:
4. Sustaining and improving the environment for the serious study of music in higher education, by both music majors and general college students;
3. Maintaining the highest quality, integrity, and standards in all aspects of our discipline: creation (composition), presentation (performance), listening (concert attendance), scholarship, and teaching;
2. Creating partnerships with community institutions to improve, through music, American cultural life; and,
1. Fostering profession-wide commitments to advancing education in music as every musician’s responsibility.
The order in which these objectives appear represents the traditional priorities of music teaching in higher education, from scholarship down to service. But I have numbered them in reverse to show that we must now devote energy to an alternative and inverted focus of these objectives in order to change American cultural life. If we concentrate on meeting objective 1, we will be better prepared to meet the other three. Together these four objectives reflect a cycle of concerns that begins within our profession and extends to the environment in which our community exists, which in turn affects our profession.
The College Music Society will endeavor to establish this musical culture over the next two years with the intention that it will endure far beyond this time frame. In its effort to focus on specific actions that will enable us to achieve this goal, CMS will
- Convene a summit of leaders from the entire range of music professions to develop specific action plans for meeting objectives 1 and 2. Professional musicians and their institutions must now move beyond the hand-wringing and sloganeering that have unfortunately characterized most of our previous work on these objectives. We must begin to advocate for music and its power to affect lives positively. We must more fully demonstrate that education in music is too complex an entity to be advanced simply with a twenty-second sound bite, a “celebrity drop-in,” or references to increased SAT scores and math achievement. We can improve the visibility of education in music by supporting the main leaders in our field in their intellectual and professional pursuits and by taking joint responsibility for what happens in our own field.
- Develop events and workshops at profession-wide national and regional meetings that examine every musician’s responsibility for education in music. We must stress the importance of regional efforts in reaching our goal, because change begins in local communities through the efforts of individual musicians.
- Sponsor professional development workshops that present shining examples of musicians doing good work in all sorts of venues. These best practices can then serve as models to be adopted in our local communities as appropriate.
- Continue and expand the new CMS Outreach Project, initiated as a pilot program during the San Francisco conference, by revising its name and goals and by focusing on building the partnerships required to influence the cultural life of our communities for the better.
While pondering these ideas, I have thought of the many great people I have encountered in my fifteen years of active CMS participation. Although I cannot mention each of them by name, I would like to thank them for their ideas and contributions, their skills and talents, which have aided in the growth of our dynamic Society. I must also acknowledge a deep indebtedness to my predecessors in the CMS Presidency, especially the last four, with whom I have had many discussions over the years: Douglass Seaton, Dale Olsen, John Buccheri, and Robert Weirich. Specifically, President Weirich’s capacity to balance high-order intellectual thought with inspired musicianship has positioned CMS as a society with a unique opportunity to effect change. I know I speak for all members of CMS when I express gratitude for Bob’s leadership over the past two years. I am glad that as Immediate Past President, Bob will continue to help shepherd our efforts and offer his unlimited enthusiasm and enlightened assistance to our cause. His informed participation will be invaluable.
All CMS members will have many opportunities to become involved as volunteers on behalf of education in music in the coming months, and I will do my part as CMS President to maximize this volunteerism. We will need you all. As always, I welcome your response to these ideas.
Thank you for your display of confidence in my abilities to facilitate this vision and your willingness to sign on to our important new goal. I look forward to our vital work.