May, 2018

Keith Ward

Circles,” from his first series (1841), is one of my favorite Emerson essays. While the gendered language and the Romantic search for the unattainable and infinite certainly date it, his ideas about change as a constant, that “every ultimate fact is only the first of a new series,” has inspired me over the years through the many remarkable changes in our profession. “Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth,” writes Emerson, “that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning; that there is always another dawn risen on mid-noon, and under every deep a lower deep opens.” Emerson challenges us to be cognizant of and a participant in change’s continuum.

This ever-evolving, ever-becoming process of Emerson’s reminds me of the work we do in the College Music Society. Our publications and conferences are not static; they venture beyond affirming the status quo by exploring new questions, ideas, and thoughts about something deeply meaningful to us: music. Our work is not linear, nor is it prescribed. Instead, it is, cumulatively, a way of participating (that is, of ever-becoming) in the evolution of music, its history, reception, creation, performance, dissemination, and influence, and of the multiple discourses we use to frame it.

These thoughts occupy me as the academic year draws to a close. Our regional conferences have concluded, but already the next series starts to be drawn. For the Society, that next circle is our 

national conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, scheduled for mid-October. (Is your passport up to date?) I have seen a draft of the program, and it is impressive. Through interactive topical sessions, presentations, lecture recitals, composition and showcase performances, lightning talks, posters, and student papers, members will take in presentations on diversity and inclusion (the common topic for 2018), pedagogy, musician’s health, performance skills and repertoire, career development, advocacy, analysis, reception history, and interdisciplinary studies. The conference will be preceded on Wednesday by three workshops: “Video & Gaming in Music Instruction,” “Creating Interactive Content for the 21st Century Music Student,” and “Embracing the Diversity Imperative: A Deep Dive into Strategic Initiatives for Inclusion, Access, and Equity in Music.” Our conference will be punctuated by three keynotes: Carolyn Calloway-Thomas, the Chair of African American and African Diaspora Studies at Indiana, giving the Trotter lecture; Kylie Peppler, Director of The Creativity Labs, also at Indiana, presenting ATMI’s keynote; and, starting our conference, a presentation by John Kao ( All of this will be happening in the dizzyingly vibrant metropolis of Vancouver, a remarkable city with its own diversions. 

At the conclusion of his essay, Emerson encourages us to draw a new circle, ”to forget ourselves, to be surprised out of our propriety, to lose our sempiternal memory, and to do something without knowing how or why.” Come to Vancouver to be influenced, inspired, and challenged by your peers, to make new connections or affirm established ones, and to involve CMS as you actively and purposefully draw your next circle, whatever its next “new series” may be.