January, 2011

David B. Williams

As I pick up the baton from the impressive succession of presidential leadership over 52 years of The College Music Society, I find myself reflecting on why I value 30 years of membership in the organization. I wear my CMS membership with pride and consider the organization, its activities, and the personal connections it nurtures among the most rewarding experiences in my college music career.

Like many, I joined CMS for the Music Vacancy List and, thankfully, discovered that the organization offers much more in fulfilling the needs of a musician in academe throughout one’s career. One might say that CMS’s strength is in its 3 D’s: No, not as in “Dittersdorf, Dvorak, and Dallapicolla” or in 3-D movies. The 3 D’s I have in mind are Diversity, Dialogue, and Discourse. CMS provides a rich diversity in the music disciplines and interests represented by its membership and activities, forums for dialogue on topics relevant to music professionals in higher education, and opportunities to shape the diversity and dialogue through discourse into new models and new directions for our performing, creativity, teaching, scholarship, and academic citizenship.

As Cynthia Taggart, Past President, noted in her 2009 president’s message, our “rich representation [diversity] has enabled CMS to broaden the discussion of music [dialogue] in higher education beyond the teaching of individual disciplinary subjects and has allowed us to focus on the holistic education to students, both in and outside of music.” She continues, “As the only organization that represents the entire enterprise of music in higher education and beyond, CMS needs to lead the discourse.”

I’ve recently been reading Mark C. Taylor’s book (Knopf, 2010), Crisis on Campus: A Bold Plan for Reforming Our Colleges and Universities. The book grew out of a provocative editorial to the New York Times (April 27, 2009) entitled “End the University As We Know It” and offers an informative historical perspective of colleges and universities in this country and thought provoking models for what they might become in the future. What strikes me as significant is the parallel between the models and strategies Professor Taylor offers and the mission and activities of CMS. Mark Taylor remarks:

“During the latter half of the twentieth century, we moved from what can best be described as a world of walls and grids (industrial factories and assembly lines) to a world of networks (communications media and information-processing devices linked in worldwide wireless webs). Grids are closed—walls separate and isolate their components into autonomous regions, departments and divisions; networks are open ideas, individuals and organizations. An understanding of how networks operate prepares the way for reconceiving what universities should do and how they should do it.”

The very nature of CMS is just such a network of openness, openness in its diversity, its dialogue, and its discourse. Taylor goes on to suggest new strategies for encouraging interdisciplinary programs including a new academic area called “emerging zones.” When you look at the CMS “building bridges” programs at conferences, the “forums and dialogues” and “collaborate dialogue” sessions, the new Summit conferences, and the organizational design of CMS’s activities with information services, career development, engagement and outreach, and professional activities, one sees that we embrace a model that attempts to breakout of the walls, grids, and silos of the past to offer new ways to view, participate, and engage in dialogue and discourse on topics critical to our profession.

It is a great privilege to serve as President of The College Music Society. I am honored to be offered this leadership opportunity, and, with your help, we will continue to build upon the uniqueness of our organization, uniqueness in our openness, in new and exciting ways for “CMS Beyond 50.”