May, 2020

Ode to Music “Workers”

On this May Day, referred to in some countries as International Workers’ Day, we pay tribute to music workers and in invoking that term, I mean all of us: faculty, students, administrators, performers, scholars, composers, music educators, patrons,  those involved in the music industry from security guards to sound technicians, and did I mention musicians, or was that assumed?  

As faculty, staff, administrators, and students strive toward the end of our respective terms, we have much to be proud of.  Across the nation, those who comprise music in higher education have responded to the disruption with determination, ingenuity, and resilience – even as many report online platform fatigue.  In many ways, music faculty, performers, and thought leaders have been charting our own destinies– balancing current needs with planning for the future, including Fall 2020.  In this context I wish to bring a few matters forward for your consideration.  

First, I wish to thank the numerous CMS members who responded to our plea for financial assistance with their generous contributions. Your dollars, totaling nearly $10,000 thus far, will assist the organization in navigating through the immediate next weeks of operations. At the same time, however, I invite those who may still be considering a contribution to CMS to do so. We continue to see shortfalls in revenues, and our staff is continuing to work at reduced salaries, bearing the brunt of the financial downturn for the membership. March saw a $5,000 deficit even after salary reductions had occurred, and April began with similar difficulties, even considering the generous contributions of members. If together we can pool our resources toward ensuring CMS’s future, we will look back with gratitude and pride that the Society was able to sustain its position as an organizational leader in music academe. Please consider supporting the cause with a donation and/or by renewing your membership early.

Second, I wanted to provide an update on an addition to our member profiles.  As The College Music Society has grappled with issues related to equity and opportunity, it has become increasingly evident that the Society would benefit from having access to demographic information about our members. Throughout our organization’s history, we have not collected such data regarding, for instance, gender or racial status. As you know I charged the CMS Committee on Cultural Inclusion with creating a survey that would provide members with the opportunity to share this data. The Committee, chaired by Alexander Marrero has completed its task.  I write now, asking that you update your membership profile with responses to the three or four questions listed. Of course, the survey is optional, and we will ensure privacy of the data collected.  I extend our gratitude to Chair Marrero and members of the Committee. My hope is that this venture will provide the Board of Directors with data which will enable CMS to apprehend the gender and racial balance of our membership. Our hope is that having this information at hand will inform CMS efforts to move the needle in regard to the distribution of equity and opportunity in the Society and in music in higher education.

The webinars that CMS and other professional music societies have produced this term in response to the disruption have been inspiring.  CMS’ most recent webinar, which focused on large ensembles, aired on April 24 with 370 attendees (although 470 registered).  Attendees hailed from the U.S., but also Canada, Romania, Great Britain, and Malaysia.  My thanks to President-Elect, Mark Rabideau, Moderator, and William Pelto, executive director.  Panelists included Aaron Flagg, Rebecca Phillips, Shelbie Rassler, Dominick DiOrio, and Katherine Kilburn. A recording of the webinar is already online in the CMS Library and COVID-19 Resources site. The chat and Q&A resulted in many conversations, suggested resources and applications.  We look forward to seeing you at our next webinar, topic to be announced shortly.  

The Board of Directors continues to consider our options and opportunities for our annual meeting in October.  Stay tuned for more about that.

Colleagues have asked how I spend my evenings since there are no longer concerts and other College related events to attend or preside over. I continue taking voice lessons remotely, which makes the work toward layoffs, furloughs, and budget management a little more bearable.  I am well aware that I am fortunate in retaining full-time employment even as colleagues across the country experience lay-offs and under-employment.  As a vehicle for staying in touch with family, I have come out of retirement as a pianist and am giving my cousin piano lessons once a week.  While there is no chance that I will be nominated for “teacher of the year,” many of you are deserving of this recognition, and I salute you and all of the other music heroes among us.