Balance, blend, & harmony are the Holy Trinity of the musical art form. To achieve all three simultaneously is the goal of every composer, musician, and conductor. It requires skill, attentiveness, and most of all, flexibility. When achieved, it transcends the composition, the artists, and audience to a different place.
All things being equal, achieving this is difficult at best. But, when given the obstacles of intonation rigidity, instrument idiosyncrasies, and individual player tendencies, the pursuit can be a worthy but maddening, pursuit.
Consider the following... In order to achieve our musical goal we must blend:
Piccolos and tubas, clarinets and trombones
Instruments in different keys, ranges, and clefs
Rhythmic and melodic sounds
First, second, and third parts
Sharp and flat keys
But as music educators we must also blend:
All-state players with beginners
18 year olds with 13 year olds
Boys and girls
Good instruments with bad
Visual with musical (marching band)
Various ethnicities and socio-economic statuses
As I said, at times this can be maddening.
It would be easier if the instruments were all in the same key and made of the same materials. It would be easier if the instruments were in the same clef and had the same intonation tendencies. It would be easier if the students were all the same ages and skill sets.
It would be easier if all things were equal, but then by definition it wouldn’t be balance, blend, and harmony, it would just be the SAME. Balance, blend, and harmony REQUIRES us to not only be different, but to work together to overcome our differences.
The ability to strive for true balance, blend, and harmony might be the most important lessons our students learn from us. Not for musical reasons, but for personal ones.
Recent (and not so recent) events have left our country as fractured as anytime I can remember. We don’t seem to be looking to balance or blend our differences so much as isolate and avoid those who are different from us. The left only talks to the left. The right only talks to the right. We elevate discussions to disagreements and discourse to debasing. I have watched political debates become dehumanizing. We don’t celebrate or appreciate our differences, we divide and isolate based on our ideologies. We aren’t seeking balance, blend, and harmony; we are seeking uniformity, isolation, and polarization.The result is anything but harmonious.
Remember, balance, blend, and harmony CELEBRATES differences but REQUIRES flexibility.
Music education has NEVER been a more important or worthy pursuit. We need music in our schools and in our lives, not just because of what it does for young people but for what it does for our cities, states, and countries. Students involved in making music are not just learning about balance, blend,and harmony in music but in life as well. They are learning to work with others to achieve goals. They are learning to be observant and flexible. They are learning to lead and to serve. They are learning about LIFE.
Recent events tell me that we need music now more than ever. They tell me that we can’t give up. We can’t back down. We can’t give up. And that what you do makes a difference. MUSIC MATTERS!
Here’s to a year full of balance, blend, and harmony. For you, for your students, and for our country.
Welcome back! We need you more than ever.