Dear Santa

Mike Lawson • Features • December 3, 2020

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What the #$%@ was that? 2020 will certainly be a memorable year for many things…. not many of them are good.

• Global Pandemic

• Massive Hurricane Season

• Civil Unrest

• Political Unrest

• War on Science

• War on Facts

• Complete and total disruption to public education as we know it? Check, check, and double check!

This year Santa, I want one big present: The end to the COVID-19 pandemic. When the pandemic part is under control (through vaccinations and other protocols), our beloved music and performing arts programs will truly flourish once again.

Santa, for 2020, let’s celebrate the COVID-19 Heroes for Music Education – the people and organizations who went running toward the flames as the virus broke out, schools shuttered, and many struggled for a way forward. They are the beacons of hope and inspiration to helping us get to where we are today. We will be counting on them as we transition to what comes next.

They include:

Dr. James Weaver (NFHS) and Dr. Mark Spede (CBDNA) – As the co-chairs of the International Coalition of Performing Arts Aerosol Study, James Weaver and Mark Spede were the few people talking about the role of aerosols and the spreading of the virus. Their quick action regarding the threat aerosols posed to the continuation of performing arts programs led them to create the Aerosol Study at the University of Colorado and University of Maryland. This the single most crucial effort supporting our programs during COVID-19.

Dr. Shelly Miller – As the lead researcher on the Aerosol Study, Dr. Miller brought her expertise to the party, highlighting how to mitigate aerosol spread in our programs. Six months before anyone was talking about aerosols, Dr. Miller was banging the drum. Her efforts have helped the performing arts community survive and have armed us for the battles ahead.

Mary Luehrsen and the NAMM Foundation – NAMM’s six-figure matching grant for the Aerosol Study became the magnet to attract all other funding to make this study possible. Additionally, NAMM provided support to a stressed music products industry and led the charge for increased federal funding to support education.

The 125 members of the International Coalition of Performing Arts Aerosol Study  No supporters. No project, No programs. Period.

Robert W. Smith – The world-renowned composer became the energizer bunny of pandemic information, curating and sharing information from around the world on his Facebook page and in SBO. His Facebook page became the go-to place for pandemic news impacting the music education field.

Barry Houser – Barry led the Athletic Band committee of CBDNA as they looked at the implications of COVID 19 on collegiate and high school band programs. Surveys, webinars, and guidance for the field all provided free to everyone. A champion for leadership in music education, Barry walked the talk… in spades.

The Creative Repertoire Initiative (CRI)– Robert Ambrose, Brian Balmages, Steven Bryant, Michael Daugherty, Julie Giroux, Jennifer Jolley, John Mackey, Pete Meechan, Alex Shapiro, Frank Ticheli, Omar Thomas, and Eric Whitacre all joined forces to start The Creative Repertoire Initiative (CRI). CRI is a collective of composers and conductors committed to creating adaptable music for ensembles in this academic year and beyond due to the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Brilliant, timely, and forward-looking!

Elisa Janson Jones – What do you do at the start of a pandemic? You create a 50,000 member Facebook group Music Educators Creating Online Learning! Then you host your own monthly podcasts, write articles for SBO and Choral Director magazine, and manage more webinars than nearly anyone on the planet all with a smile and happy disposition!

Dr. Scott Edgar – Eighteen months ago, no one was really talking about the connection between social emotional learning and music education, except Scott. Now everyone is. Enough said.

John Mlynczak and James Frankel – Noteflight and MusicFirst jumped into the fray, offering their products for free and working overtime to refine their product and develop new services to support music educators. The webinars they each presented helped many transition successfully to remote learning.

Denese Odegaard and NAfME Professional Learning – Denese led the charge to have NAfME at the forefront of professional learning during the spring and summer. Variety, relevance, timeliness, and volume! Something for everyone… every week!

Tiffany Kerns and CMA Foundation – When people were feeling down, Tiffany was ALWAYS there for you! Using the resources of the CMA Foundation they launched United Voices for Music Education to celebrate YOU, including a PSA to highlight the importance of music educators during this time.

Anne Fennell – Anne recognized early, not the crisis, but the opportunity! This was a chance to rethink our music education and elevate aspects of the artistic process that usually have played second fiddle to performance. Her focus on culturally relevant pedagogy will continue to lead the field forward (see the recent SBO cover story on Anne).

Franklin Willis – Franklin has led the charge on culturally relevant music education, particularly in our remote learning environment and throughout general music. As the virus recedes, this work will emerge prominently for our field.

Dr. Tim – He is everywhere and anywhere providing inspiration, pushing us all forward toward a better tomorrow.

Arts Ed NJ’s September Ready Taskforce – This team of more than 120 arts educators came together to create school opening guidelines for arts education that has been a model for states and districts across the country.

National Organizations – ABA, ASCD, ATSA, CBDNA, HSBDA, JEN, Music for All, NAfME, NFHS and companies like CONN SELMER, D’Addario, Yamaha and many others contributed with their own money, products and programs.

And lastly…

All of you! You are the real heroes of this pandemic, fighting hard every day to overcome whatever challenges confront you so you may provide the gift of music to your students — working longer days, countless hours developing new skills, embracing new technologies and new ways to engage with your students.

May you all find some peace, joy, and happiness this holiday season. You have certainly earned it!

Bob Morrison is the CEO of Quadrant Research and is the founder and chairman emeritus of Music for All. He has been a lifelong advocate for music and arts education across the nation.

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