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THE13thChair

It happened.  Every single school board member is a music parent complete with razor sharp talon-like opinions clawing at everyone who threatens their babies.  Every administrator is a former band, orchestra, or choir director that sits in their rotating leather chairs with a look of sweet satisfaction on their face while gently placing their fingertips together and letting out a soft moo-hahaha even when they are the only ones in the room.  Every music program is celebrated with a large pep rally once a week for two hours where instead of music playing from a 1998 Jock Jams CD, there is a light Gregorian chant performed by each class in a soft, low hum, Seniors Seniors Juniors Juniors and so on. World History is replaced by World Music History.  Home Economics is replaced by Music to Cook By.  Math, all of math, is placed in a large, isosceles triangle-shaped rocket with enough force to escape the earths gravity and reach the necessary 25,000 mph to break orbit, only to be piloted directly into the sun while the individuals on earth remotely flying it listen to The Planets by Gustav Holst in their neon blue Beats by Dre headphones. 

We have won. 

Oh, one can dream.  Clearly this is not what we consider to be the end goal of music education and an organization like AMP.  But it’s fun to talk that way sometimes, isn’t it? ISN’T IT?! To fiercely defend our ideals of how much music education is important in the overall schooling of today’s kids to the point where nothing else matters.  We need to win at all costs.  So much so that we forget what “winning” actually means.

I’m not a political activist, more of a social commentary and point out the obvious type of person, but it’s hard to ignore what’s going on in Washington, state governments, or even local towns.  Everyday you read a new article about some “fight” taking place.

“The fight to preserve healthcare.”

“The fight for the middle class.”

“The fight to keep ketchup away from hotdogs.”

It seems as though every decision to move our way of life forward is a fight.  Soon we’re going to start resorting to wedgies and noogies to decide what the tax rate should be.  Although the thought of placing a crotchety old congressman in a headlock while grinding my knuckles into his horseshoe patterned hair while saying, “Say I look pretty.  Say it!” is really appealing, it’s not the right way to get things done.

Everything is a fight not because of passion, but because of belief.  The belief that because one’s idea is right must mean everyone else's is wrong.  So for the good of humanity, you must stop those with a different belief.

We need more people who step back and start a discussion rather than start a fight.  At heart I think I’m an idealist, so don’t get me wrong.  But idealists in the music education world need to be the exceptions that start the discussion, not be the ones who dominate it. If everyone is an idealist then no one listens.  And if weve learned anything from music, the more we listen, the better it is. 

Please, music parents— RUN for a spot on the school board.

But only if you’re the right person for the job.

When people in power refuse to listen because their belief in their cause is exclusive, then the response is predictable. It makes people think there is room for only one belief.  One idea of what things should be.  If music is the single most important thing in the world, then that must mean everything else is less important and therefore doesn’t matter.  That can feel threatening.  When we’re threatened, we fight.

We as a music family have been fighting for so long because the idea of music being a central part of education has been deemed not as important as other “subjects” by those currently in power (in many regions of the country).  Clearly this is the case when budget cuts are made and music programs are the first to go before science, math, football, and the Doctor Who after school club.  We feel threatened, so we fight.  BUT, the question I want to ask is: what are we going to do when we “win?”

Let me clarify.  We want people who see the importance of music education in our schools to run for local elections, school boards, mayors, etc.  When those people attain office they have choices to make in how they govern.  They’re not going to be working only with music parents.  They’re going to be working with community groups, basketball coaches, chess, debate, and swimming teams, all who think that their cause or activity has significant value to those who participate.  And they’re probably all right. How do you LISTEN to all of these voices so that you can be considered someone to trust? How do you manage having to make hard decisions and not have people feel they’re being attacked?  How do you be a GOOD politician?

I don’t know.  But I’m not running for office.  (I actually don’t run at all.  I know it’s hard to tell with my fit figure, chiseled abs, and ability to lie.)

I’m a children’s author.  I know monkeys, emotions, superheroes, and boogers.  That’s about it.  I find they are very valuable subjects to discuss.   But no one else would have seen their value because my book would have never made it to stores and on-line retailers if I didn’t take the time to learn about the business.  I spent countless hours researching information about ISBNs, printers, binding techniques, contract agreements, marketing, publishing political landscape, and even inks.  Not why I got into writing kids' books, but it was necessary to do things right.

When I get into conversations with distributors, they’re not fights. They’re educated discussions and fact-based arguments.  Sometimes they even say how impressed they are with my level of knowledge about the business, even after I negotiated them down in price.

If you’re passionate about music education, run for office.  Do it.  Go and help bring music education to the forefront of the discussion. But when you get someone in office that says, my way or the highway, they don’t last long and neither does their cause. Do your research. Learn about what the science team does. Learn about the ongoings of the chamber debate team or the ROTC.

We want people who are music education advocates to run for office. But they need to be the right people who are willing to do the work, not just speak the word; people who are willing to see the value in other activities, so other activities will see the value in music education. Why fight to win when we can work to grow?

Parents, get involved. Become part of the music culture. Find out what makes it great. Love it as much as your kids do. Understand the benefits of music for children's futures.  But you have wisdom beyond them. You’re old. Um…I mean, you have gone through more experiences in the many, um…I mean—additional years you’ve lived. You know better than to fight blindly. This all comes down to one of the greatest lessons of all: if we work together, we can make anything happen.

I imagine a world where music parents, soccer moms, stage parents, and science parental units (probably cloned), all find room (and the budget) together in a giant field of dreams full of possibilities and trombone-playing unicorns.  There is no room for fighting in this unicorn land, but music will be a major natural resource.   😉

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