As I near completion of my dissertation and prepare for my defense, it is interesting to reflect back on where I was as an advocate, composer, conductor, and educator just five short years ago. There are certainly days when I feel no smarter than when I started my first doctoral class, and I had I read up on Donald Hodges there is no doubt it would have gone better! For better, for worse, and somewhere in between the end is almost in sight. I have already said, “I’ll never be smarter” , and the journey has been worth it.
As an advocate, I can better see now that there are issues of perception that exist between our profession, the educational authorities and governing bodies that preside over us, the students we teach, and the parents whose support we wish to gain. For many people, the reality they live in is based upon the perception of the very area upon which they concentrate time and attention. Who among us has thought the other person just cannot see our side of the story in times of conflict? I believe research that more openly delineates the perception of music education through the eyes of students, parents, educators, policy-makers, and community members will serve us well and aide our advocacy on local, state, and national levels.
As a composer, I am really in a rut right now. It’s the equivalent of your 3 hitter in your line-up in a season long slump. With much of my creative energy and focus channeled towards my dissertation, I should not be completely frustrated – yet I am. I look forward to once again finding the peace of mind to hear “it”, recognize “it” is good, and develop “it” into something worthwhile for a musician to play and engaging for an audience to hear.
As a conductor, I have been more attuned to repertoire and repertoire studies than ever before. I am convinced that it is not necessarily what we choose (enough studies have been completed that we know what to choose). The “why” of our choosing is something that fascinates me. The context of the school setting, the background and experience of the director, and the instrumentation of the ensemble all have a role in the music that is selected. There are commonalities across bands as to why some music is selected, but there are also anomalies that are more interesting.
As an educator, I have come through a full spectrum of experience, dialogue, and research to discover one thing: I am a traditional band director. I cannot envision myself in another role in the public schools, and I don’t much want to. I acknowledge that there are certain areas in which band directors have justifiably drawn criticism. I would point out that there are things, second-nature to the job, that we are doing that contribute positively to the musical and social life of our students, and build up pride and respect within the communities in which we teach. When I hire an assistant director or take on a student teacher – I don’t want someone who thinks a career in music will be fulfilling (although important). I want someone who wants to do the very job that I do on a daily basis. Passion. Vision. Tenacity. Daily important attributes for the band director that serve well over a career.
What is next after the dissertation? There are some things that I want to take on related to leadership in music education, more perception studies, much more composing and some side projects related to music. But right after the dissertation? I’ve been walking down this road for a while – I think I’m going to take a nap. 🙂 Thank you to my friends, my colleagues, and my family who have been so supportive during this process. More to come when this road comes to an end.