The Emperor, Stereograms and Music Education

Remember those 3D mosaic pictures that were big in the 90s? You know, the ones that used a thousand little pictures to make one big one? If you stared at them long enough, and in just the right way, a 3D image would jump out of the picture to create a completely different picture that would unify all of the little pictures?

The official name for these "works of art" is stereogram. I just called them bunk. Why? Because I could NEVER see the 3D picture. 

I’m not sure if I wasn’t doing it right, or what my problem was, but the 3D bonus pic eluded me EVERY time. To be honest, it felt a little bit like I was the Emperor without any clothes on. Everyone could see something I couldn’t and I felt a little embarrassed when I had to admit I saw NOTHING.

Honestly, I wonder if there was even a picture there to see. Maybe this was some kind of practical joke. Where's Ashton Kutcher? Am I being punked?

I see music education as being something akin to a stereogram.

Think about it, our profession is made up of so many smaller vignettes: band, choir, orchestra, & general music. We’ve got elementary, secondary, collegiate, and professional ensembles performing in the idioms of marching, concert, and jazz. There are soloists, small ensembles and full symphony orchestras. We have local, state, and national constituent groups who are supported by manufacturers, publishers, and retail stores alike. Our musicians, ranging from 4-94 in age, are students, parents, and community members that represent every ethnic, cultural, and socio-economic group.Yes, our profession is most assuredly made up of a thousand little pictures.

But where's the stereogram? It has to be there, right? Without it, we're just a bunch of little people with no connection, working in isolation. There HAS to be a hidden image. There HAS to be a unifying theme and underlying value that ties us all together. Otherwise what are we doing this for?

For the better part of a quarter of a century, I have been looking at this picture, searching for the stereogram. There are moments when I think I see something, but it fades before I can recognize what it is. It is equal parts maddening and frustrating. I KNOW it's in there. I can feel it even if I can't see it.

I believe we are all are working to a bigger and better end. I believe that there is a sense of structure and purpose to it all that gives our work a greater meaning. I believe we are all collaborators and not competitors. But collaborators at what?

I’m just not sure... YET!

But then again, I can’t see hidden images. So, can do me a favor? Will you look at our sterogram and tell me what you see? I REALLY want to know if there’s something there, or I’m just the Emperor wearing no clothes.

And NOBODY wants to see a stereogram of that!