In Conversation with President Eileen M. Hayes

Eileen Hayes

Equity, Opportunity, and Hello

Over the years, CMS has played a significant role in the lives of those engaged in the pursuit of music both in and beyond the academy. I have long appreciated the capacity of our CMS membership to envision the “uninstallation” of disciplinary silos and to engage with colleagues on a range of topics that inform our teaching and fuel our interests as true life-long learners in music. It is in that spirit that we anticipate Carolina/ CMS Summit 2.0 later this month. As we welcome the new year and contemplate this year’s common topic of “Equity and Opportunity,” I think of how closely related it is to “Diversity and Inclusion,” our 2017/18 common topic championed by President Keith Ward with vision and an insistence that inspires.

As we go forward, I hope that we will continue to make the case—to our respective institutions as well as to the nation—that music education writ large matters to the society in which we live. A significant corollary is that all of us matter to music. If we were to look inward, and set as our collective goal, becoming the most welcoming of the professional music societies, our common topic would be effectuated in ways we can not yet envision. I offer this challenge because as much as many of us enjoy a strong feeling of communitas within CMS, it is also true that over the years, this welcome has not been experienced by everyone in equal measure, whether at our annual meetings, regional or national. This observation is borne out in the literature on professional academic societies. The shortfalls of equity and opportunity experienced by our departments and schools of music extend beyond campus parameters and resonate throughout our profession. While we have successfully incorporated new theories and methodological approaches within performance practices, research, teaching and scholarship, we must work with as much resolve to welcome embodied critical knowledges, meaning advocating for and with everyone from senior colleagues working to redesign their approaches to teaching, to contingent faculty who deserve respect as much as livable salaries.  Granted, my perspective is partial, yet it is informed by experiences I have had as a member of numerous professional societies over the years. Like others of various underrepresented groups—people of color, women, members of the LGBTQ community, I have occasionally experienced unwelcome first-hand, and now I welcome the opportunity to encourage us to carry on differently. Music in higher education needs all of us.

My personal connection to the theme of equity and opportunity can be traced to the civil-rights oriented household in which I grew up in Kansas City, Missouri during the 1960s. My father was a civil rights leader, and my mother, a women’s rights activist, yet I grew up knowing little about either of those movements for inclusion and equity. That is because, in part, my parents insisted that it was their job to fight for equality and that mine was to practice piano. My work as an ethnomusicologist and my interest in the role of music in U.S. social movements has been informed by experiences I had at and away from the keyboard, during those early years.

It is a high honor for me to serve CMS as president.  While it is customary, at this juncture, to thank the outgoing president and praise his or her dedication and indefatigable work ethic, my appreciation for Keith Ward’s incisive leadership over the past two years also comes from my heart and yet echoes the sentiments of our larger membership. Our organization is in his debt.

Enacting equity and opportunity in music in higher education and in society is a tall order, but steps at the local level are significant. Let us welcome the new year with the courage to listen to our colleagues. Let us greet everyone in our midst as though they were already one of us. Let new CMS members and those who may one day return say that through our actions, we had them at hello.