In Conversation with President Keith Ward

Keith Ward

October is a month across academe when we settle into our work. That said, it is important to remember that some among us this year have worked through unwanted catastrophes. With earthquakes in Mexico, raging fires in the West, and hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria causing interruptions and inflicting unimaginable damage, let us take a moment to express our concerns and best wishes to colleagues who have had to confront significant disruption in their work and lives. We hope normalcy will return soon. Reflecting past generosity of CMS members, you may wish to consider providing financial support to those areas affected.

The other day I was sorting through files and came across the text of the Trotter Lecture in 2010, given by David Myers at the national conference in Minneapolis. Titled “Music and the Public Good: Can Higher Education Fulfill the Challenges and Opportunities (Privileges and Responsibilities) of the 21st Century?” it still wears well seven years later. David asks how higher education will respond in a more “global and interdependent world” to the “unprecedented opportunities for music faculties to rethink current assumptions about internal curriculum and its relationship to the world beyond the academy; to implement related and radical curriculum redesign; to pursue collaborative leadership with community and professional institutions; to encourage interchange with a wide variety of arts and non-arts disciplines; and to demonstrate tangible commitment to the humanizing values of music in the lives and learning of all people.”

As many Trotter lectures do, David’s address challenged us. He also caught an issue in the air that still warrants our attention.  Specific to the theme of his speech, there have been significant developments in CMS since 2011, such as the publication of the report on the undergraduate curriculum (recently cited, with a nod from Musical America, in College Music Curricula for a New Century, Robin Moore, Ed., 2017), the immensely successful Summit on twenty-first century music school design, organized by David Cutler at the University of South Carolina in June 2016 (Summit 2.0 forthcoming in January 2019 — stay tuned), and publications in College Music Symposium. Mark Rabideau is an editor for a new CMS book series on emerging fields.  The list goes on!

David Meyer’s 2010 call to action leads me to thinking about the keynote addresses scheduled for this year’s national conference in San Antonio. How will they engage us? What effect might they have on our work? In the opening keynote Ysaÿe M. Barnwell, Ph.D. and former member of the a cappella vocal ensemble, Sweet Honey and the Rock, will talk about the “The Role of African World View in the Music, Songs, and Singing of African Americans.” ATMI’s speaker, Alex Chen, who is Creative Director at Google Creative Lab, will lead us to think in new ways through his presentation, “Seeing Music.” And this year’s Trotter lecture will be delivered by José Antonio Bowen, jazz musician, prolific scholar, celebrated pedagogue, and President of Goucher College, on “Technology, The Liberal Arts and the New Learning Economy: Creating a Climate that Supports Student Development.”

We have such important work still — and always — to do in our profession. We celebrate tradition while asking substantive, compelling questions that speak to our restlessness. Under our big tent, as I have described CMS, we consider the whole experience of the academy, from traditional scholarship to cutting-edge performance, from career development to supporting the many junctures of our careers, to debating curricular reform vigorously and rigorously, to being good academic citizens and creative artists.  Through outreach efforts and collaborations with NAMM and other organizations we consider our work in a broader context in a world that is becoming ever more interconnected.

Our conferences are vital parts of this dialogue, and our keynote speakers focus our attention in unique ways. What inspiration will we gain this year, and how will it compel us in our work?