After three years of reorganization and internal scrutiny, The College Music Society has emerged strong and healthy. We also have a number of mechanisms in place which should enhance our ability to identify the critical issues which face our profession not only presently, but in the forseeable future. Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, I sense that we also possess the will and the strength to respond to the many challenges that lie ahead.
In the educational climate created by the publication of A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform, a national debate has once again arisen which questions the place of the arts in education and, construed to the larger context, the role and function of the arts in our society as a whole. Because they involve priorities and budgets, these are, of course, difficult questions; questions that don't easily give way to workable solutions.
On the brighter side, any and all of the experts who seek to address this complex issue in the context of the "new basics" - from the National Commission on Excellence in Education to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching to the recently raised voice of NEA's Chairman, Frank Hodsoll - hold one view in common: that "the arts" are a necessary component of education at every level. If one looks a bit further, several obvious and related areas of concern also emerge which deal with 1) arts education in the schools; 2) arts education for communities, and, of course, 3) arts education in the preparation of teachers. (We should also take note of the fact that arts agencies and presenters seem anxious to address these concerns as part and parcel of their need for audience development.)
In this view of the educational hierarchy, CMS enters the picture in its concern for the preparation of teachers. We also enter the picture much earlier and at a crucial stage as teachers of music to the general college student. That calls to mind vast numbers of students who—for the rest of their lives, assuming we have done a good job—will go to concerts, visit museums, sit on the Boards of arts organizations, and vote on the bond issues that will be essential for school funding. Eventually, they will also entrust the education of their college-bound children to our care.
I'm sure that you can see that I am structuring an argument in which to reiterate my strongly held belief that our most urgent commitment is to the "cause" (as Arthur Tollefson phrased it) of Music in General Studies. The eventual outcome of this effort is of incalculable importance not only to the music profession but to the "arts" in general as well as to the perceived relationship between the arts and education.
It seems to me that CMS is in a position to address the issue of Music in General Studies better and more effectively than any other professional organization. In that we are an umbrella society, it plays to our strength. We are, after all, the only organization in the profession wherein members representing all the areas and disciplines of music can sit down together and consider the problem.
In this overall context of Music in General Studies, I need not remind you that recent studies have only confirmed that which we all sense to be the case: America is no longer a melting-pot in the traditional sense of assimilation, but rather a multicultural society. I bring this up not to lament the past, but to focus our attention on the future. The sincere and good-spirited accommodation of diversity may well have become a critical factor if our arts are to prosper in any meaningful way.
Speaking from the point of view of a practicing composer, I think I can safely say that nobody—and I mean nobody—worships the mighty Beethoven more than I do. I can further expand that testimony to include the entirety of that great tradition of which Beethoven is a part. Having said that, can I not also say with equal fervor and conviction that I—and all of us, I hope—have an obligation to be concerned with a world of music that exists in addition to and in overwhelming proportions to that rather small body of music which we designate as Western Art Music?
Through its summer Institutes for Music in General Studies, CMS continues to address the need for the inclusion of "expanded repertories" in our teaching. By definition, that concept embraces all kinds of musics: African, Afro/ American, Asian, Hispanic, American Indian, and—within the broad context of American culture—jazz, traditional, folk, country, and popular vernacular styles. It may be that the time is upon us when the teaching of expanded repertories is no longer an option, but a necessity and beyond that, perhaps even an opportunity to be welcomed.
In spite of tangible progress, I sense that we have only scratched the surface. I am hopeful, however, that the newly-created CMS Task Force on Music in General Studies will be able to suggest new ways to increase the scope and effectiveness of our programs in that area.
To turn our attention once again to the ongoing national debate mentioned earlier, it also appears to me that CMS is in a position to take advantage of an unprecedented opportunity for cooperation at the national level. A number of persons who have held office, sat on the Board, or chaired committees in The College Music Society are now in positions of leadership in our sister/brother organizations. Paul R. Lehman (President of MENC), Thomas Miller (President of NASM), Elliott Schwartz (National Chairman of ASUC), and Robert J. Werner (President-Elect of ISME), are but a few. This fortuitous circumstance behooves us to join forces with these other organizations—who among them represent just about everybody in the music profession—in an effort to pursue the important goals we hold common.
Finally, let me say that I am greatly honored—and perhaps a bit intimidated—to find myself in this office. With the help, advice, and support of many of you good people, however, I shall do my best to serve the Society well.