My Annual Letter to Santa

Bob Morrison • CommentaryDecember 2022 • December 15, 2022

Dear Santa,

Where do I begin?

First, THANK YOU for bringing me the big present I asked for two years ago… an end to the pandemic. You knew, as we did, that our beloved music and performing arts programs would not be able to truly flourish until the global pandemic evolved to where we live with it.

As a result, there is so MUCH to celebrate this year and so many individuals and organizations who deserve special presents! 

So would you please prepare the following presents for some deserving (and a few not so deserving) folks:

For Austin Beutner – One Billion Thank Yous! In case you have not been paying attention, Beutner is the former Los Angeles Unified school District Superintendent and the mastermind behind the just passed Proposition 28 in California. Prop 28 requires the state to allocate $1 billion ANNUALLY to support music and arts education with 80% of the funding targeted for hiring more music and arts teachers. Not since the passage of Proposition 13, which gutted arts education across the state, has there been such an investment. Now, if we can get the other 49 states to follow suit we’ll be in business!

For Chief Justice John Roberts  a better metaphor. During recent debate regarding the use of affirmative action in college admissions Seth Waxman, the attorney defending Harvard in the case, was pushed by Chief Justice Roberts to say when race may determine whether a student gets into the selective university. “Race for some highly qualified applicants can be the determinative factor, just as being an oboe player in a year in which the Harvard-Radcliffe orchestra needs an oboe player will be the tip,” Waxman said. Roberts replied: “We didn’t fight a civil war about oboe players.” And to think that for all these years this is exactly why I thought we fought the civil war… for oboe players! Now I get Justice Roberts was trying to be cute, but our double reed playing friends suffer enough self-esteem issues without having the Chief Justice dissing them.  

For the Save the Music Foundation – 25 more years! The iconic music education philanthropy is celebrating their 25th anniversary. I know many people back in the day did not expect Save the Music to last one year, let alone 25! Congratulations to the entire STM team and their supporters for helping to restore music education for so many students in so many communities over the last quarter century.

For NYC Mayor Eric Adams – some common sense. Seems like the newly installed mayor of NYC thought that it would be a good idea that, coming out of a pandemic, that the best thing he could do to support education was…  to slash the school budget including funds for music and arts teachers. As they say on ESPN SportsCenter, “C’mon man.” Cutting music programs in urban communities is so 1980s. Get with the program dude.

For Drum Corps International and Music for All – another year of growth! After several years of no events, concerts, competitions, or field trips it was nice to see DCI member organizations crisscrossing the United States and to see a robust fall marching band season for Bands of America and all of the regional and state circuits. There is no better medicine for the performing arts than restoring the ability to actually… perform!

For the Music Education Community – a positive message! Contrary to the actions of Mayor Adams, the vast majority of our schools and students have music education programs. Music education in the United States is strong and thriving and we need to embrace this as our message. We should use this as a position of strength and ask why is it some students do not have access to music when most students do? We need to stop begging to keep programs and start demanding programs for everyone.  

For the United State Congress – debate lessons from the British Parliament! On November 9, 2022, the House of Lords debated a national plan for music education for more than 2-1/2 hours. They spoke of many of the issues which have been discussed by music advocates here in the United States. That said, our Congress has NEVER spent 20 minutes debating music education, let alone 2-1/2 hours.

To David Wish of Music Will (formerly Little Kids Rock) a subscription to Conde Nast Traveler. Turns out the Little Kids Rock founder and CEO will be stepping down at yearend to take a sabbatical before returning as the chief visionary officer of the organization. And why not! David has been the visionary behind the modern band movement worldwide. The organization he has built is nothing short of amazing. Dave, may you enjoy your travels while you recharge your batteries. Do not stay away too long!

For U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona – a bigger audience! Secretary Cardona, in a visit to Nashville to celebrate the CMA Foundation’s Music Educators of Excellence, stated he believes music education is a part of the solution to rebuilding students and their schools coming out of the pandemic. “As a father, seeing how music teachers have helped my children these last two years, they were high schoolers in the pandemic, and they missed their sense of community. And those music teachers know how to reconnect them to community.”

And lastly… 

For all of you who bring the wonderful gift of music to students across this nation everyday — may you receive as much joy this holiday season as you give to your students and have a very happy, healthy, and prosperous new year! You have certainly earned it!

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