2019 – Let’s hope it’s a good one (without any fear)

Mike Lawson • Perspective • December 4, 2018

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From hurricane season in my hometown of Panama City, Florida, to wildfires all across my former home state of California, Q4 of 2018 ended with a lot of destruction and scary events resulting in unprecedented devastation.

I stared daily in disbelief as images and video surface from family and friends in Florida. Neighborhoods of my youth wiped out. The music store in town where I rented the sax in 7th grade, where I bought my first good guitar, shuttered as downtown struggled to cleanup from the aftermath. Schools I attended, ripped apart and leveled. People I formed lifelong friendships with, grew up with in school music programs, who never left the area, reaching out using flip phones to laboriously text me to ask me to post on their Facebook page that they were alive, and to give out their temporary TRAC phone numbers they were forced to use when Verizon towers fell like trees in the high-intensity winds of a Category 4, 155 mph hurricane.

I expected the beach to get hit. I expected the hideous wall of condos built for miles along Highway 98 (Front Beach Road) to get knocked down in some karmic revenge of nature for blocking the view of the Gulf of Mexico from the hoi polloi. Instead, it did something it has never done and turned toward town. The beach itself suffered very little damage by comparison. I wanted to get down there but have no special skills that could actually help. I would just be taking a bed away from somebody who could.

We were short a story in our November issue by ace SBO reporter Marty Steiner. Even he was impacted by the hurricane, and he is well over a hundred miles inland in south Georgia. Having seen what the hurricane did to my neighborhood, the bowling alley I rode my bike to, the hospital my mother worked at, the mall I hung out in, and more, I felt I was just too close to all this to write objectively about it. I asked Marty to take this on and reach out to the area band directors who were available to comment and send photos. Thanks, Marty.

As if it is some comfort, at least my hometown has something to rebuild. The fires in California took out entire towns, from homes to businesses to schools. Everything. Gone. And so, as we read the entries for our 21st Annual 50 Directors feature, I truly understand the level of normalcy, hope, encouragement, stability, and direction our nation’s school music programs provide. The students in California, the students in Florida, thrown into chaos, some with no school to go to now, some with no home to live in, some living in tents, going to school in remaining schools combining multiple district schools into one location, in shifts, are going to really appreciate the hour or so they get to spend with you. You will provide them an important gift in rehearsal, routine, in getting an instrument replaced, in your involving them in the very rebuilding of their band program from the ground up. Clearly, the directors in this year’s special issue do this every day, even when not dealing with crisis and tragedy of an epic scale. Though some of them get a student through a hard time because their program was falling apart, a director left, a parent or fellow student died, or things are just hard at home in general.

My wish for you in 2019 is that you never lose sight of the genuinely special role you play in your students’ lives, even when it is hard to tell you are doing so. While we can only choose one director from each state each year, it is extraordinarily obvious to me that each of you are making a difference. Happy holidays, and Happy New Year! Let’s hope it’s a good one…

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