September, 2018

Keith Ward

By the end of this month the new academic year will be in full swing. For some, it will be the opening of a new chapter: a first academic position, a job at a new institution, the start of graduate study, perhaps with a research or teaching assistantship, or the beginning of a college career. I myself am part of this group: Last month I began a new position as Director of the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver. If you are in one of these new situations you are likely asking yourself many questions. How do I construct my new reality? What contributions can my work make to my profession, my institution, and my career? Will I fit in? Will I succeed? 

Continuing faculty have or will have returned from summer activities of a breadth and depth impossible to capture in a sentence. We are a lot pursuing wide, divergent interests and activities, all of which speak to the greater enterprise of higher education and the arts. Heterogeneity is the defining element. What progress did I achieve in my research? What did I gain from the festival(s) I played in or served as a resident artist? From the workshops I attended? What did I compose? What insight did I gain from reflecting on pedagogy? How will my work contribute to a broader narrative?

For all of us, wherever we are on this continuum, the start of an academic year is a moment of transition, a point when our focus shifts, either by beginning a new chapter in our professional lives or returning to work we know. Wistfully or otherwise, we let go of summer and assume a schedule that folds in service to our institutions, our students, and our colleagues. As we do, there will be plenty of the mundane -- but essential -- to address, all that speaks to the business of institutional and departmental operations. We will need to negotiate our time and efforts differently.

As we begin or resume our work, I encourage you to keep reflection in your day, to remember the bounty and idealism from the summer. I hope it will influence the important and noble work we do. As practitioners, we are the ones charged with moving the needle. As faculty, we prepare students to be both successful in music and to be thoughtful members of society through lives of inquiry, engagement, service, and purpose. As students, we have decided that music is significant enough to pursue with focus, curiosity, and zeal. Higher education is one of the underpinnings of our democracy, of developing informed, critical, and engaged citizens, of empowering all of us in service to a greater good. The arts most certainly play a role; we have an important voice. 

As we all work toward restarting and plugging into institutional machinery, I hope you will keep these lofty ideals in mind. To sustain the unfolding narrative, our colleagues, students, and profession rely on it.