If you are like most music educators, by the time you read this you will be on holiday break. Midwest Band has come and gone. Music for All’s Bands of America program has crowned LD Bell High School (TX) the new Grand National Champion. And you are now diving into the stack of magazines that has been piling up on the floor by your desk for the past four months.
To provide you with a little mental break — and back by popular demand — is my annual letter to Santa asking to deliver what I believe will be meaningful presents to many girls and boys (naughty and nice) so they may use these gifts to prosper in the New Year!
Another year has come and gone and once again I ask that you indulge me by foregoing any gifts for me (I know I could really use that NY Health Club Membership!) and bring to some folks more deserving, or needy, than I the gifts they need the most.
Let’s start with gifts for… PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES!
• Mike Huckabee #1— My Name and Address. If he is serious about “deploying weapons of mass instruction” (meaning musical instruments) then I want to be Secretary of Defense!
• Hillary Clinton — A Bucket. She has admitted herself she cannot carry a tune, but this has not stopped her from promoting her support for arts education. So the least we can do is give her a little help!
• John Edwards and Bill Richardson — Parting Gifts. Neither one of these gentlemen will be their party’s nominee for president. But that does not mean we should not give them an “atta boy” for joining what is fast becoming a chorus or presidential candidates touting the benefits of music and arts education for every child.
• Mike Huckabee #2 - Our Gratitude. How great is it that we have a candidate that is truly passionate for music and arts education and demonstrates his passion in his words and deeds? Whether you agree or disagree with him on other issues, he does deserve props for going to schools, sitting in and playing with music programs, and playing with his own band on the campaign trail at every opportunity.
We have never had one presidential candidate speak about our issue… now we have four — this shows you how far we have come. How great is that?
• Main Stream Press — New Talking Points. I can’t tell you how many debates I sat through waiting for one — one — question on education. Yes, the war is a big deal and so are terrorism and the economy. But education is a real issue for most families across this nation. To pretend that we do not have tremendous issues facing our ability to educate our young people in a meaningful way to compete in a global economy is a complete abandonment of the responsibility to report on issues that impact our country. I don’t think anyone will miss one or two less stories about Brittany and Paris, let alone bring them up in a Presidential debate! (Update: After 9 Republican Presidential Debates and over 900 minutes of national airtime education was discussed less than 1/2 of 1% of the time. The Dem's spent more time discussing Dennis Kucinich's interaction with UFO's than the Repub's did on education. Sad.)
• Congress — A Spine. The reauthorization of No Child Left Behind has now been kicked into the New Year with no meaningful progress on exactly what revisions are to be made. This means another year of facing the cutbacks and eliminations of many fine music and arts programs because of terrible flaws in the law. I am sure moving this debate into the middle of a presidential election year will make it sooooo much easier to pass a revised law . If this congress does not have the fortitude to fix the flaws in this bill that have reduced or eliminated our music and arts programs then we need to get —
• The American People — A New Congress… The last one didn’t work. This one doesn’t either. Is it possible to find people who will actually want to get things done instead of talking about what they are planning on maybe sometime doing in the near future if at all possible when the lunar eclipse falls on the second Wednesday of the third month of a leap year? Where have all the statesmen and stateswomen gone?
• President Bush — Packing Tape! He has lots of boxes to pack up, as he gets ready for the big move from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue back to Crawford, Texas.
• STEM Education Reformers (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) — A Vowel! That’s right, you cannot talk seriously about creativity and education reform and forget to include the subjects that are based on creativity! So with your “Buy a Vowel” card go out and get an “A” for “Arts.” Now your acronym will be STEAM… maybe by including the arts you can get a head of STEAM going for education reform. Otherwiseit becomes nothing more than a bunch of hot air.
• New Jersey commissioner of education Lucille Davy and secretary of state Nina Mitchell Wells — Cloning Pills! Based on their commitment to reform education to bring music and the arts to every child in the state, our nation would be well served if we could create 50 copies of each — a pair for every state!
• School Administrators — Common Sense. The issue of banning holiday instrumental music because of the words (even though the words are not spoken), eliminating any musical performance that has even the slightest attachment to religion (meaning entire periods of music history are wiped from the play list) and trying to become modern day arbiters of what is “appropriate” for school to perform (aren’t there people who have trained their whole life to do this? Oh yeah, they are called music teachers!) is not what you were hired to do — raise test scores! Enough already. Use some common sense and stop trying to be the PC music police.
• Marching Band Members — Ear Plugs! USA Today reported on the potential ear damage that could be caused by extended exposure to high volume. This is particularly a concern for our marching percussion students. Marching Band is a great activity, but not worth damaging ones hearing for. I am certain this will be an important issue for our field in the year to come.
• LD BELL High School Music Department — A New Trophy Case. As the Bands of America Grand National Champions, you will need an appropriate space to place the Alabaster Eagle. Their BOA performance was truly a transformational production that has broken new ground for what is possible with a great band. And to Director Jeremy Earnhart, my thanks for the yellow rose before your semifinals performance!
• University of Massachusetts Marching Band — A Nation Wide Tour. After watching what is arguably the best college band in the land tear down the house (okay, it was a dome), bring 30,000 people to their feet for several standing ovations, and create grooves that were so deep in the pocket that they could have stole my car keys, this group needs to be on tour spreading the gospel. (Bias Alert — I spent time at UMass. Director George Parks is a long time friend and Assistant Director Thom Hannum was the best man in my wedding.)
• Virginia Tech Band — A big group hug from the rest of the music community. Your courage and strength in the face of such a great tragedy and direct personal loss showed the world the true class of your organization and showed the world the very deep and meaningful bonds created in our band programs.
• Our Readers, who bring the wonderful gift of music to students across this nation everyday — may you have everything you may ever want and a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year!
Oh, I almost forgot — my really good friend Sandy once told me he had one ultimate goal in life so, for Sandy Feldstein (may you rest with great music!) — A world where everyone claps on TWO and FOUR!