Maawwwwwrrigge, Music, and My Christmas Wish!


(Editors note: Sorry for the title, but Scott’s juvenile mind and obsession with the Princess Bride win on this one. Despite my best efforts, I was unable to convince him to use his common sense, agreed upon spelling, or any other conventional adult norms, like understanding that coffee is not a part of the food pyramid.) 

Now back to today’s article...

A article by Lila MacLellen of Quartz Magazine looks at long-term relationships and what makes them happier. In the article she cites a UC Berkley study that states that, "The first few years of a marriage are rife with conflicts, but given time, the emotional weather eventually changes, and bickering and criticisms give way to, humor—friendly teasing, jokes, and silliness. 

In other words, marriage is a barrel of laughs if you can just eek your way through the first couple of decades or so…

As someone who has enjoyed fifteen years of wedded bliss I can attest to the general sentiment that with time comes understanding and with understanding comes a greater sense of respect and deeper love. I believe this, not because of me, but because after 15 years my wife doesn’t get irritated with my quirkiness and oddities so much as she laughs, accepts, and prepares for them. Right honey?! 

(Editors note: Speaking of marriage, it's generally not a good idea to communicate with your spouse through national publications. But since she is one of his three loyal readers, we will let this one slide.)

And the concept of time helping to develop deeper bonds is not unique to marriage, it applies to music as well.

Shortly after we were married, my new wife accompanied me on our annual pilgrimage to band camp! (What woman wouldn't consider that an ideal honeymoon?) She was new to the "band world," and was taking it all in. 

Just after one of our student led pre-meal thoughts, she said, “I envy you!” And after I responded with a lengthy list of reasons why that might be true, she said, “Not because of any of that. I envy you because you get to see kids in the summer, fall, winter and spring. You see them before school, during school, and after school. You see them both semesters and for four years. You see them on their good days, bad days, and everything in-between. She then said,

"You are like a parent to a lot of these kids. And, while every teacher hopes and wants to make an impact on their students, you music teachers actually do!”

The study went on to quantify that jokes and gentle humor were not the only heroic behaviors that showed up in greater abundance in relationships over time. All the positive ways behave toward someone became more evident as the years passed,. criticisms faded, and appreciation blossomed.

One of the benefits of teaching music is that we get the luxury of time with the same group of students. Over three to four years and thousands of hours, we get to be around these kids in good times & bad, happy & sad, and grow WITH them. Behind the endless rehearsals and constant contests, we are learning love, respect, and how best to teach and learn one another. 

This is something that can be rushed. This isn't something you can fake or grow in a test tube. REAL respect, REAL appreciation and REAL understanding takes REAL time!

I WISH it were quicker. I WISH it were easier. I WISH it didn’t require such Herculean efforts. But then again, as someone who only spends three to four hours in front of a new group of kids each and every day, I WISH I had YOUR impact!

Spending time (years) with the same group of kids is what I miss most about teaching and has become my Christmas wish.

All Is Well, Lights and My Holiday Letter to You!


As I write this I have several significant deadlines approaching and mission critical decisions that are needing to be made. I don’t have the necessary information or desire to make them, but there they are, hiding in plain sight and serving as a constant reminder that they are soon coming ashore whether I want them to or not.

I have started and stopped this newsletter almost a half dozen times and the result is six half written articles that are not yet worthy of your time and attention such as:

  • Are you wanting to know about music, ADD, and how your birth month affects all of the above? That one never made it past paragraph two. 

  • Are you curious as to how music is both the cause and the solution to helicopter parenting? You were close to reading that! That one was 2/3rds written, but just felt forced.

  • Curious about the a grammatical error in the Constitution and ties to music education? So was I, but it was a bit of a stretch.

  • I’m not even gonna tell you about my idea about having you write a letter to your future self (but I guess I just did).

Yep, all of these and the several other half baked articles will likely find their voice (and eventually your inbox) at some point, just not today.

Fifteen years and over 750 articles have taught me to not force an idea. So, I wait… And wait… And In case you were not aware, patience is not a strength of mine.

In times like these, I have people, places, and things that I look to for inspiration, reflection, and distraction. During this time of year it’s holiday lights! Yep, lights are my jam! I am like the DaVinci (editor insert: more like Chevy Chase) of holiday lights! I know that lights are a commercialized representation of the holiday, but I am a person who requires evidence of things, and for me, holiday lights serve that purpose. 

Like I said, me likey the lights!

My relationship with holiday lights hasn’t always gone well or been easy. In fact, I wrote about our tortured relationship back in 2015 here. But, still they draw me in and can distract me for hours. 

Noticing that the work day had turned into work night while I continued getting nowhere, I decided to stop writing, clear my mind, and go futz with my lights. I like to change what they do each and every night through my phone app. (I told you lights were my jam!) Tonight would be the night I would check out the apps newest feature "syncing to music.”

Needing appropriate music, I typed Christmas music into my iTunes search bar and what came up was Christmas by Michael W. Smith. 

If you have not heard this album, you should! For me, it is the finest holiday album ever made. Published in 1989, it is the forgotten step-child of his 32 other albums. Even his three other holiday albums pale in comparison. The album is pop in nature but layered with extensive orchestral and choral interludes that make it as unique as it is inspirational. 

So I hit play and watched the lights put on a show to my favorite song on the album, All Is Well. Smith's orchestration of lush strings set against a child’s voice is spectacular and the triumphant horns at the end would do John Williams proud.

So there I sat, in my front yard with music blaring and my lights twinkling, and it hit me…


The deadlines will be met. The projects will be completed. The decisions will be made and in time I will say, “All Is Well.”

Your job is as difficult as it comes. Much more difficult than mine. After all, talking about something requires less than actually doing that something. You battle parents and administrators with the fierceness of a warrior, tend to hurt knees and hurt feelings with the compassion of a caregiver, and deliver information and inspiration like an all knowing sherpa, leaving little time for you and the ones you love. You likely have recently felt tired and deflated as the weight of looming deadlines and decisions become heavy and burdensome.

Know that it is worth it and it will be okay. Understand that the struggle is in balance with the gain and that while it may not be evident each and every day, YOU make a difference in the lives of countless young people. Believe that ALL IS WELL and you will see evidence of it right there in your classroom. You will hear it in your students’ voices and see it on their faces. You will feel it in their joy and experience it through their music.

Like I said, I require evidence of things, and just as it is in front of you each and every day, it was there right in front of me, in plain sight, and on my front lawn. All IS WELL!


p.s. Seriously, if I could give you all a copy of this album as a holiday gift I would. Take a moment, turn down the lights in your space and give this a listen. Heck, listen to the entire album. 


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What's the most important factor when it comes to predicting a child's future success? Certainly race, access to education, and economic factors play a role. Sadly for my kids, so does parenting (my 8 year old says he has outgrown me and he might be right). 

But a recent study says another key element -- perhaps the key element -- is WHERE you grow up. Not only does it make a big difference in what city, town, or even neighborhood you live but your life chances can be dramatically different depending on which block you grow up on according to a recent New York Times article: Detailed New National Maps Show How Neighborhoods Shape Children for Life

What recent research is finding is that a hyper-local setting (the environment within about half a mile of a child's home) has an enormous impact on a child’s future success and earning potential.

I don’t think any modern educator doubts the impact that a neighborhood plays on a child’s potential success. What is new in this study is the ability to predict future income based on a micro-setting. Even given the same zip code, family demographics, and school boundaries, they are able to tightly target, study, and predict future income based on a very small locational map. 

The metrics are as specific as they are mysterious. Researchers still don’t fully understand exactly why children from some neighborhoods are more successful while one street away a child may experience a very different life, but they believe it is based on the block or street lived on. 

It’s not the neighborhood but the people IN the neighborhood. So perhaps Bob and his furry friends from Sesame Street were on to something when they sang, 
“Who are the people in your neighborhood? In your neighborhood, in your neeeeiiiigghhhbbboorrrhooodd!” 

(Now you have that earworm to deal with.)

As music educators we are well aware that little things can make a big difference, and just because two children have similar homes, demographics, and attend the same school does not mean that they have the same educational experience. We also know that part of what makes music kids so successful is that we place them in a "community" of high quality, like minded kids and caring adults. This is one of the MANY reasons why all children should be exposed to music as a part of their educational process.

Music classes are more than a creative and emotional outlet, they transcends color, gender, and social and economic influences to help create and produce a community of better young people.

But just for giggles, what if we went even more micro than just music? What if we studied:

  • Which programs (b/c/o) had what impact later in life?

  • If children who were a part of more than one music program experienced more success?

  • If children who are a part of more than one ensemble make more money in life?

  • If any specific instruments showed a greater or lesser impact in future successes?

  • If music students were more successful in any specific professions?

To my way of thinking, this micro-study of student/child success doesn’t go nearly micro enough. This could get really interesting.

So maybe Bob and our Sesame Street muppet friends were on to something... Who are the people in your neighborhood? In the study they define your neighbors as people you see and interact with each and every day. People who care for you and about you. 

To my way of thinking, your neighborhood isn't defined by a street address or GPS location, but by a level of caring and concern by a group of like minded people that keeps you safe and on the right path.

Yes, it takes a village to raise a child. And the study shows that a good street will improve your life. But, when you really look at your neighborhood, you realize that it might be music that will change thee trajectory of your life.

Have a great week!

p.s. As much fun as we all make of drummers, in my (not so scientific) experience, I have found that percussionists tend to be successful music teachers at a higher rate than other instruments. Just wondering what it is about their neighborhood that makes them more successful?

A Bad Week and a Thanksgiving Thought


Dear friend:

It's been a bad week. And I mean BAD!

Don't believe me? Someday, we'll sit down and I will tell you a story that will blow your mind. But for now, let's focus on the here and now.

It's 11:53 p.m. on Tuesday night, and my newsletter should be done, but it's not. 

Tick... tock... tick... tock... 

You would likely not notice if it didn't show up in your inbox today, but I would! Is it vanity? Perhaps, but we can debate that another time. For now, let's focus on the here and now. 

With the midnight (or later) hour rapidly approaching, we o give thanks to you, but I am struggling to find a way to do it that is neither formulaic or trite. What should I do? I am struggling with what to say. But, many of us have been together for over 15 years and you deserve better.

My wife says to keep in short and simple (much like myself). So, here it goes...

Thank you for putting the needs of kids above your own.
Thank you for giving young people a creative outlet in their day.
Thank you for making students laugh, cry, feel, and think in ways no other subject can.
Thank you for keeping music alive in our country, our culture and in our lives. 
Thank you for sacrificing your days, nights, weekends, and summers for others.
Thank you for being the standard bearer of excellence, both in and out of school.
Thank you for being a role model to young people and adults alike.

Simply stated... THANK YOU!

This Thanksgiving holiday will be filled with many opportunities to give thanks for all of the blessings we experience each and every day. And for me, the holiday would ring a little hallow if I didn't take a moment and express my thanks to each and every one of you! So, Happy Thanksgiving and THANK YOU!

Enjoy the holiday weekend my friends, and know that I will be giving thanks for YOU!

Muzakical Maestros and Background Noises


For most people background music means Muzak. The much maligned soundscape was created in the 1920s by George Owen Squier, a former US Army officer who developed a new way to transmit audio through wires. 

His invention led to the creation of a company called Wired Music, which enabled businesses to broadcast music in offices and commercial premises. In 1934, in homage to the wildly successful camera company Kodak, Wired Radio was renamed Muzak.

Music, even when you are barely aware of it, can be surprisingly powerful. Over recent decades researchers have found that it can affect how much time we think, how we shop, and even how sweet or bitter food tastes. One study found that shoppers’ preference for French or German wine shifted according to which of the respective countries’ traditional music was playing from a nearby set of speakers.

There are two main ways psychologists think about the effects that music can have on us. The first is physical. Numerous studies have confirmed our common sense assumption that we often subconsciously match what we are doing to what we hear. In 1985, for instance, one study found that diners chewed at a faster pace when higher-tempo music was played. 

The second approach focuses on the associations that music can trigger and how the environment we are in affects those associations. One 1998 study found that diners in a cafeteria were willing to spend more money when classical music was played in the background than when there was no music at all. 


We know for a fact that background music affects us. Now the question is, does the background noise of our lives affect our music?

Every person who walks through your doorway has background noise in their lives, including you. The noises can be intellectual, physical, or emotional. It can be professional or personal. It can be joyful or filled with sorrow. It's a fight with a spouse or sickness in the family. It's struggles with money or issues with children. It might be an impending celebration or a new relationship. It might be a spilled cup of coffee on a new tie or a traffic jam on the way to work. Whatever it is, these noises have an effect on our teaching and our student's learning. 

How does the background noise affect our teaching and our students' learning? I don't know, but I wonder:

In times of sadness does the music we make have a darker sound?
In times of joy are our tempos slightly faster?
In times of angst are our articulations harsher?
In times of anger are our fortes louder?
In times of confusion do we play more wrong notes?
In times of extreme sadness or joy do we play more sharp or flat?
In times of exhaustion, does the precision of our rhythms suffer?

It would be hard to quantify, mediate or account for all of the background noises our students bring each and every day, but it is possible to be aware of our own noises and how they affect our students. I know for myself, too often, in ways good and bad, I let the background noise of my life affect the music education experiences my students received.

And in that way, I guess I was their Muzakical Maestro.

In My (Musical) Life


There are places I'll remember

All my life, though some have changed

Some forever, not for better

Some have gone and some remain

-The Beatles, In My Life

In the pantheon of iconic bands the Beatles’ stands above them all. And for me, In My Life sits in the upper echelons of their song catalogue. 

Set in a simple musical setting, the song's poetic lyrics tell the story of the totality of one's life. It reminds us that even long ago and forgotten places & people helped to shape who we are today. It also remind us that our daily interactions are just as powerful in shaping who we are as grand events or traumatic experiences.

This is equally true for our musical lives.

Setting aside the small possibility that a child will choose music as a profession, her musical education likely begins in Kindergarten and ends when she graduates high school. We hope and want our students to continue on but typically college or community bands are more music recreation rather than music education. In other words, the focus is more on enjoyment than for instruction.

So what does a "musical life" typically consist of?

  • 1,526 total classes*
    - 231 general music classes
    - 555 middle school rehearsals 
    - 740 high school rehearsals

But there are other milestones to mark...

  • 26 concerts

  • 40 halftime shows

  • 182 rehearsals in a year

  • 110 rehearsals left in this year

And ways to quantify time...

  • 167 pieces of literature

  • 7 broken stands

  • 240 reeds

  • 2 instruments

  • 3 method books

And then there is the unquantifiable…

  • Tears 

  • Memories

  • Friends

  • Laughter

And through it all they will likely have just FOUR teachers

It’s important to remember that while music making is infinite, for most,
music education is not. It has a defined start and end date.

And while each and every child is in a different place in his progress and process, they all have the same ending place. Like life itself our musical life has a clock that continues to countdown with the passage of each and every day.

Through those thousands of experiences YOU are among the precious few teachers who have the opportunity, responsibility, and privilege to shepherd these young children through this process. The task is not an easy one. It requires vision, patience, skill, commitment, and a caring heart. It requires skill and mastery that extends beyond the instrument and into the understanding of young people. It requires your all.

I have always said that "Teaching music is a soul sucking, life draining profession because music is a soul enriching and life changing activity.” And through it all you were there and you will be remembered and loved for it. Paul McCartney said it best when he sang:

Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life, I love you more

Your days as a music educator may be finite but the depth of YOUR impact is not.

Have a great week!

* The numbers above are based on 182 instructional days, for twelve years, with general music every fourth day and daily instruction beginning in the 6th grade. The rest of the data is based on this formula.

Halloween, Non-Linear Sounds, & the Source of Our Angst


I love Halloween! 

I mean, sure, it’s no Christmas, but in the pantheon of holidays it sits at the cool kids table and can rightfully make fun of its lesser counterparts like Groundhog and Talk Like a Pirate Day. 

Now I’m NOT advocating for bullying, but when a glorified mole is your mascot and your day centers around loose fitting shirts and talking like a four year old, I’m just saying that you're asking for problems. 

So yes, I like Halloween. I like the spookiness. I like the costumes. I like the communality of your kids coming to my door and my kids going to yours. I like the signaling of the start of the season of giving thanks. I like the candy! And, I love the music! Well, love might be a strong word because it incites more fear and angst than love. But there it is, music!

I know what you’re thinking, “Wait, Halloween has a soundtrack?”

Sure it does!

Think about Psycho, or The Twilight Zone . Not sold yet? What what do you feel when you hear these two chords?

In fact, it turns out that music is one of the necessary components needed to artificially create fear. Don’t believe me?

Wanna go swimming now? Me neither and research is showing us why.

It turns out that the key to having your heart race is just as much within the purview of John Williams as it is Steven Spielberg. What makes the suspense-building chords of the Jaws theme so scary? It is the density of the chords? Is it the lower register voicing? Is it his ominous scoring? Nope.

It turns out unpredictable and irregular patter in which they occur are the source of the terror? Music that has no perceptible melody, rhythm, or harmony are called non-linear sounds, and our terrified response to them is ingrained in us from birth.

Sounds without a perceptible reason for occurring (i.e. melody, tone, rhythm, & harmony) are most associated with fear. In fact, a 2012 study has found a connection between horror movie music and the screeches of young frightened animals. 

Researchers believe there are biologically-ingrained reasons why sudden, dissonant sounds and minor chords make us apprehensive. According to a study conducted by the University of California at Los Angeles such sounds, a dissonant chord, a child’s cry, an animal’s scream, trigger a biologically ingrained response by making us think we are being threatened!

This sound driven stimuli is not limited to the big screen either, it is used in pop music, television shows, and even in political attack ads. Which explains my unnerved response every time I see one of those. 

For many music is a source of beauty. For others it's a creative outlet. And for some, it's a chance to feel things on a deeper level. 

But apparently for ALL of us it is a source of consistency, predicability and comfort. Whether we realize it or not, music innately reminds us that moments of tension will be followed by a release. That dissonance will eventually be resolved and that loud can and will be balanced by quiet. It is not written in a text book but it is known within us just the same.

Music is yet another reminder that on some level, our minds and souls require some semblance of balance and blend. That darkness requires hope and that sadness will one day yield to laughter. What the study shows is that music can provide angst and imbalance when it is not serving its intended role, which is to remind us of balance.

This is among the many reasons why music matters for young people, because it provides BALANCE.

Being a young adult is a turbulent time, and whether they realize it or not, music makes it slightly more tolerable. It balances the highs with the lows and their sadness with joy. In their ever changing world, music and YOU serves as a necessary and consistent source of reason and rationality. For many young people, YOU represent someone and something that is truly dependable. 

Yes, they need music, but more over, they need you! 

See, that’s not too scary is it? 

Have a Happy Halloween!

p.s. Just so you know, later tonight I will be pillaging my son’s Halloween haul for Butterfingers. Don’t judge me, he’s my child and I changed his diapers, so I'm taking what I want. and Part of Your World


A couple of weeks ago my buddy Dan said he was ready to try online dating. Tired of the club and bar scene, he was looking for something new. Like any supportive friend I told him I thought it was a great idea and that I would be happy to help. He said, "GREAT! Now, go write my profile.” And so I did.

But a lot has changed since I was single. When I exited the dating world in 2003, online dating was in its infancy and was a sign that you'd given up on real people. 

Fifteen years later, even the greatest hope for online romance has left the shadows and stepped into the sun as the primary place people turn to when seeking romance. While the Match Group (the Amazon of online dating) shows that digital matchmaking is big business, and that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of niche dating sites that are experiencing success by catering to the most specific and peculiar areas of interest.

There are sites for lovers of bacon, sea captains, and farmers. There are sites for smokers, Filippina Christians, Ayn Rand enthusiasts, and people who have the hots for hot sauce. If you can find a way to categorize a future mate based on a mutual love of something -- anything -- there's an app for that. But can you actually find love when you've narrowed your options in the name of, say, a common love of the movie The Little Mermaid? It turns out that the answer is an emphatic YES!

So, forget, where’s

I’m being serious. How do middle aged farmers get a website and a national TV ad campaign but 10% of America’s population get nothing? I smell opportunity here, well, that and sunscreen. I say YES to! Ready for my ad campaign?

  • Want a dedicated spouse? Our clients carried around 32 pounds of sheet metal all summer. 

  • Looking for someone who can make a commitment? Our clients will show up six days a week, morning, noon, and night for months at a time!

  • Want someone who enjoys the outdoors? We're connoisseurs of bug spray.

  • Trying to find someone to share your Friday nights with? Just look two bleacher rows down.

  • Like going to concerts? Connect with someone here and create your own!

It’s not just me… My wife would (and did) say the same thing!

Full disclosure here, my wife and I taught at the same school when we started dating, and if I needed something I would just send one of my band kids down to her office to grab it. On one particular occasion I sent two of my favorite knuckleheads (Brad & Charlie Utter) to deliver something. They made some wise cracking joke as they were leaving, and as the class giggled, my wife said, “Laugh all you want, but those boys are special. Go on a date with the jock, but marry the band geek!”

And she did! (Wait, does that make me a band geek?)

In love and in life, we tend to look for people who share our values. We want people who are willing to make a commitment and can stick with something, or someone, until the end. We want people who are dependable. We want someone who is willing to put others before themselves and understand that the world does not revolve around them. We want someone who wants to part of a team and someone who respects that we all bring something valuable to the table.

In short, we want people who were once music students.

We want them as co-workers and neighbors. We want them as colleagues and community leaders. We want them as patrons and partners. We want them teaching our children and caring for our elderly. We want music people in every other facet of our lives, so why not our love lives?

So who’s up for a little coding and a lot of mockery as we tell the world: If you want the best of, go to and let us show you some real (e)Harmony.

Remember, Ariel didn’t say she wanted to be part of your world, she SANG it!

p.s. FYI, within twenty minutes I had my buddy Dan online and getting responses such as, “This is the best profile on here.” and, “Best read on this site.” So, if this speaking thing doesn’t work out, perhaps I could be your "marchmaker." (see what I did there)

Our Nation's Store, and getting SEARious about Time!

Sears 2.png

Sears was once the nation's largest retailer and its largest employer. In its heyday it was both the Walmart and Amazon of its time.

Formed in 1886 by railroad station agent Richard Sears, the company started as a watch business in North Redwood, Minnesota. Sears moved to Chicago in 1887, published the Sears catalog in 1896, and opened the first store in 1925. 

Sears' stores helped reshape America, drawing shoppers away from the traditional Main Street merchants. Sears brought people into malls, contributing to the suburbanization of America in the post-World War II era. Its Kenmore appliances introduced many American homes to labor-saving devices that changed family dynamics. Its Craftsman tools and their lifetime guarantees were a mainstay of middle-class America.

It wasn't just appliances either. Sears sold (and until Monday, still sells) instruments. Yep, that’s right, the American behemoth sold instruments to the likes of Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Elvis Costello, and little Susie who sits third chair in your second ensemble.

Sears truly changed America and music education. And then Amazon and Walmart changed Sears.

We are a "want it now" and "want it cheap" society. This culture didn’t just appear, it has existed for over a century. In fact, it is how Sears came to be the nation’s largest retailer. They provided access to cheap products quickly (relative to their time). And I don’t suspect that we will be any more patient or less thrifty moving forward. The need for efficiency and the want for ease is what drove the invention of the wheel and fire, so we’re dealing with some serious historical evidence that says it’s here to stay. 

Don’t get me wrong, people see the value in investing time and energy into long term solutions. They also understand that, sometimes, you get what you pay for and that less expensive is not always the right choice. But, to override their initial reaction, you have to take the time and effort to educate them why fast and cheap does not necessarily mean the best value. 

This is where Sears failed. And, this is where music education fails.

Learning to play and instrument is NOT quick or cheap, and while we music educators understand that, most people do not. But, the ROI (return on investment) and value proposition is undeniable. Each and every person will benefit from this experience if they are willing to invest the time and stay the course. This is not a one semester or one year course. This is a multi-year commitment that requires TIME to be successful. This is where we are different from any other class in school. 

Think about it.

If my child takes a year of Algebra it is likely he will become proficient in Algebra. If he takes a year of American History, he will become proficient in American History. If he takes a year of Physical Science, he will become proficient in Physical Science.

If he takes a year of music, he will be NOWHERE near proficient in music.

If he takes two years of music, he will be a ways away from proficient.
If he takes three years of music, he will likely be approaching proficient.
If he takes four years of music, he will likely be proficient and or competent.

Perhaps one of the key issues that plagues music education is not lack of awareness or understanding of its importance, but the lack of awareness/understanding of the time it takes to be proficient. 

Awhile back I talked about the need for more time in student schedules (Time’s Up for Time to Be Upped) and I believe we need to be equally vigilant in educating students and parents about the time needed to be successful in playing a musical instrument.

As a part of this awareness, we might also find new and better ways to:

  • develop new ways to measure and show the student progress.

  • help parents better understand not just where their child is, but where they will be in six months, 12 months, 24 months, etc...

  • celebrate more mini-milestones of progress throughout the year

  • find different ways to assess progress other than ratings/grades/chair tests

  • use performances not as an act of finality, but as a measure of growth

  • help parents understand that saying NO when their child wants to quit is the right thing to do.

It’s time for us to create more time in this activity by dedicating more time to rethinking the perception of time required of the activity.

Music education, and our programs can (and will) stand the test of time. However, we might find greater success if we learn from the fallen iconic brand and get SEARious about teaching our school communities about the value of staying the test of time.

Jackson Pollack, Politics, and My Seasonal Angst!


Anyone who reads this blog or has met me in person knows that I am a very opinionated person. Everyone would expect that as we near yet another election cycle I would be giddy with excitement, but in reality I hate election years. 

In fact, I hate the entire campaign season. I know I am not alone in this and I would speculate the most of America wretches at the thought of this bi-annual exercise in patriotic self-loathing.

I used to wonder about the credulity and the the wisdom of having a republic (in which we choose representatives to choose our leaders) versus a democracy (in which we vote directly for our leaders) but recent elections have me believing that the founding fathers were on to something when they decided to send delegates to decide whom should lead our country. Honestly, I would be happy at this point to send some people to represent me and make the decision if it would spare me going through the next four weeks.

What is the source of my grand frustration? Is it the nasty rhetoric? Is it the venom of our national discourse? Is it the misleading and degrading ads? Is it the fact that regardless of the outcome 50% of our country will be in celebration while the remaining balance will be in depression? 

Nope! It’s all of those flipping *%$#@### campaign signs on my street corner.

They drive me insane! 

Beyond the fact that I am a visually oriented person and all of these signs turn every street into a Jackson Pollack painting, it’s the simplicity of it all. All of these signs are trying to reduce the complexity and nuance of a complex governmental organization into a leadership quip or patriotic McNugget. 


This past week, while driving my son to school, I came across a sign for State Superintendent of Public Instruction which read, “Fix our Failing Schools.”

Really? Our schools are failing? Hmmmm. Despite the fact that there is NO EVIDENCEto support such a slanderous claim (in fact, all indicators show our schools to be performing at historic highs), he believes he will gain support by publicly shaming and insulting 100,000 teachers and the 350,000 students they teach.

Upon returning home I called the candidate and informed him that I had just dropped my son off at his highly successful public school, where he would be educated, exercised, & fed for pennies on the dollar all under the watchful eye of highly trained and skilled college educated professionals who would love him as if he were their own. I further let him know that I would like to see a list of these “failing” schools and the dates he visited them.

There was a long pause… and then a brief apology.

It’s easy to complain. It’s easy to point out the problem when you're not required to provide a solution. Admittedly, there is a self satisfying element of martyrdom in believing that only you can see and solve what others can’t. But this type of thinking is self aggrandizing and panders to the lowest common denominator by dealing in partial (if any) truths.

What does this have to do with this e-zine?

Sometimes, as music educators, we are no better than our political counterparts. We tear each other and this profession down bemoan rather than lift it up. We speak of what’s not working in music education instead of what is. We celebrate the negatives and ignore the positives. We speak in generalities that cloud the true facts and obfuscate the truth and beauty and impact of this art form. 

In short, in search of personal or public affirmation, we sometimes become our own worst critics. We become a living, breathing campaign sign against ourselves.

As the antidote to the political circus we are all about to endure, perhaps for the next four weeks we could all campaign for what is right with music education and our nation's public schools. 

We might not win an election but you can bet our street corners would look a whole lot better as our signs would be uniformed and stand in straight lines.