Is it Contagious?

Mike Lawson • Perspective • March 3, 2020

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I have a quick couple of weeks in-between the TMEA show in San Antonio and the upcoming American Bandmasters Association meetings, which I had the misfortune of spending fending off Type A influenza, even though I had my vaccine.

My official “MEA” travel begins late November with NYSSMA, then MidWest, then it is off to the Winter NAMM Show, then Ohio’s MEA, and then Texas. How I only just now got the flu after being exposed to a dozen flights, and quite literally hundreds of thousands of fellow travelers and conference attendees is actually remarkable. While the flu – the real flu and not just a nasty cold – is a dreadful thing (I’ve had it twice officially in my lifetime), I was actually grateful for a couple of things. First, that it did not hit me during the TMEA events, because I was having one heck of a great time there this year, celebrating their 100th anniversary, and the 25th anniversary of the conception of Technology in Music Education, also known as TI:ME. Second, I was grateful that it was actually the flu and not Coronavirus, or even a serious cold. I knew that the flu, as bad as I was feeling, had Tamiflu to treat it with, whereas I don’t think they know fully what to do with the Coronavirus, and a cold, well, all you can do is treat the symptoms.

But I am 90% on the mend today, and just in time for tonight’s gig with my band here in Nashville. I had to cancel one two days ago. I was beyond contagious, but not ready for prime time. Sometimes the show must not go on, but tonight it will. And then, I will be packing for my next trips, to Mississippi for ABA, then to Frankfurt, Germany for the Musikmesse and ProLight and Sound shows, and back home to Nashville for the Tennessee MEA TI:ME events. In between all of that, I will play a Monday night gig, twice a month, because I am a lifelong music-maker, and will always be one.

As I look around the MEA shows, and see thousands of students, hundreds performing,I often wonder how many will put down their instruments when their school days are behind them. How many will keep playing and go pro? How many will go to college and become music educators? How many will get a “real job” out there, but still play their instrument in a local band, symphony, house of worship, or community band? How many of them will teach privately for a living, or on the side of their “real job,” or to subsidize their own pursuit of performing for a living?

For me personally, music is and always will be part of what I do, both inspired by great music educators, and in spite of some not-so-great music educators. I caught the bug early on as a young child. Some won’t catch it at all. They will be exposed continually, through their K-12, perhaps even college years, but the fever will never overtake them and compel them to play.

I got to throw a party for over 400 music educators attending TI:ME’s pre-conference reception during TMEA. These teachers were doing their part to aggressively spread the lifelong infection we get when we can’t “not” make music part of our lives. It was inspiring, watching them, hearing their questions, listening to their presentation sessions, seeing them share with each other how they have modernized, or are trying to modernize, their music programs and keep their students, from the 20% with traditional music program interests, to the other 80% who will never join traditional programs, excited and engaged. What are you doing in your music programs to spread the viral need to make music a lifelong experience for your students? I’ve love to know.

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