Remarks, CMS Annual Business Meeting, 2019
As we move into the last months of this calendar year and look back at the successes of our recent national conference, I would like to share with the membership, this excerpted version of my report to the Annual Meeting of the Membership. I offer my best wishes for these weeks before the end-of-year holiday season begins.
It is an honor to serve as President of the College Music Society and I thank our membership for your many contributions to music in higher education. Part of what makes our Society unique and indeed what attracted me as a member so many years ago, is our profile as an umbrella organization for all of the music disciplines. CMS conferences, committees, publications and webinars have been my entrée to ways of thinking about and in music across a wide spectrum. I have remained in the Society because of the connections I have forged with colleagues. Being a member of CMS provides me of a wider view of our discipline – and I appreciate that deeply.
As many of you know, CMS membership numbers have dropped almost 50% since the early 2000s. This decrease reflects the convergence of several factors, one of which, as Dr. Bill Pelto suggests, was that we may have missed opportunities for technological upgrades in regard to the Music Vacancy List, though we are now working to catch up. But a second factor, of course, behind the decrease, is the contraction of full-time positions in music academia over this period. Yet, still a third reason for the downward drift in membership was brought to my attention by Dr. Keith Ward, just this week. In a book called The End of Membership as We Know It, author Sarah Sladek discusses generational shifts in attitudes toward membership in professional societies. In other words, the downdrift in membership is a national issue, rather than one that is confined to CMS. Consistent with all academic societies, CMS is in the process of becoming all that we can and might be for our constituencies and avenues for Increasing Participation, identified in the Secretary’s Report, are promising especially if we keep asking our members to tell us what they want and need in an umbrella Society such as ours.
Over the course of this year, I have used my platform as president, to promote our Common Topic of equity and opportunity in Music. This summer for example, the presidents of the American Musicological Society, the Society for American Music, and CMS were the featured plenary at the Feminist Theory and Music conference held in Boston, in conjunction with the Institute for Jazz and Gender Justice at Berklee. We spoke of changes we have seen from within our respective Societies over the years, but also, of transformations to be realized in the future.
I framed the election of CMS’ first African American president as an idea whose time had come and I shared that in suggesting the theme of equity and opportunity, my goal was to make explicit, the mission of an opportunity structure that otherwise, might have been read as a one-off. I will always be grateful to CMS for bestowing upon ethnomusicologist and Filipino-American Ricardo Trimillos, the honor of delivering the first Trotter lecture. There was power in seeing a music scholar of color speak to the everyday racism of professional societies on our behalf, thereby planting more footprints in the sand so that members of the next generation could follow.
As we know, Equity and opportunity in music is a long-term proposition that entails the adoption of what writer and innovator Simon Sinek calls an “infinite mindset.”1 According to Sinek, the latter is defined by the recognition that some events, such as a boxing match, are characterized by a limited amount of time for opponents to develop a winning strategy. In contrast, an “infinite mindset,” is a longer term proposition that in our case, requires deeper trust and collaboration across disciplines, roles, and institutions. In this regard, I think of CMS and of our work in and toward music school curriculum redesign, an effort in which the Society has been at the forefront. The redesign “movement” extends beyond the curriculum and implicates admissions, recruitment, faculty appointments, fostering equity for contingent faculty, and what counts as music worthy of study and of credit. Our organizational superpower is the propensity to keep our minds open and our hands outreached as we work to affect change within the Society and at our home institutions.