January, 2018

Keith Ward

Best wishes at the start of this new year! Our colleagues working in the quarter system, or those with one-month, interim sessions, return to classes by next week; we on semesters still have some breathing room to prepare our classes. On-campus interviews for tenure-line job searches are approaching, if they haven’t already happened. Entrance auditions will be completed in the next three months, and all of us will continue to work through the transition of the admission cycle moving earlier in the academic year. We may be teaching new courses this coming term, or we may be repeating some courses from the Fall, taking stock of what we learned and considering how we can tweak or rethink some things. Ensembles start learning new repertoire, students return to studios, and year-long projects resume. Some of us will be going on sabbatical, while others will continue navigating a peripatetic life in a system too reliant on adjunct instructors. So many narratives, so many systems: academe, both good and bad, is a complex enterprise.

As we all know (and, to varying degrees, do), the new year brings the opportunity for resolutions, be they personal, professional, or otherwise. Figuratively speaking, CMS begins each year with a resolution: It’s called the common topic, a theme that influences questions we ask in a calendar year. It gives us the opportunity, collectively, to reflect meaningfully on a theme worthy of attention. 

The common topic this year, selected by the Board, is diversity and inclusion, two of the most important issues of our time. They encompass such concerns as race, ethnicity, gender, gender identification, sexual orientation, national origin, and class. They raise a gamut of concerns, from developing the awareness of living in a multicultural society to fighting for social justice. They challenge us to address systemic bias ranging from blatant acts of discrimination to unwitting microaggressions.

In and of themselves, diversity and inclusion are issues that we must raise in our work. There is a broader context as well. As detailed by Peace Bransberger and Demarée K. Michelau in Knocking at the College Door: Projections of High School Graduates, 9th Edition, our student population will continue to become more diverse, not less. Simultaneously, we see issues of diversity and inclusion being debated through Supreme Court decisions, changing state laws, even changes in pronoun use. Incidents of bias have risen, as reported by the Southern Poverty Center and the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism. Put differently, we live in a time when our demography is changing. Our efforts to understand and honor difference are more prominent in the national dialogue. 

For decades CMS has succeeded in balancing critical study of musical traditions with being an agent of change. This year we continue to do so through our common topic. How will we consider diversity and inclusion in our work as performing musicians, scholars, creative artists, and educators? How do we move the identification of difference from characterizing exclusion to defining inclusion? How do we contribute to moving from acknowledging difference in our heterogeneous society to understanding and celebrating it? 

These are broad questions that affect our work and, in part, define our time. How will we in CMS respond through our committee work, our conferences, and our conversations? There is no single way or measure for engaging these important topics. However we do so, there is a need to consider them and, when appropriate, act on them.   

I look forward to our work together on this topic as well as all that defines the work of our Society.