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Perspective: Making a Difference

Mike Lawson • Commentary • December 16, 2013

As the year comes to a close, SBO continues its tradition of dedicating the bulk of this December issue to honoring a director in each state of the U.S. by giving these educators an opportunity to tell a small piece of their story. This year’s report is filled with inspirational anecdotes that give us pause to reflect on the amazing impact that so many directors are making on their students, programs, and communities. There appears to be a common thread that weaves throughout the music education profession from year to year, namely the ability to reach those kids who are at-risk or simply don’t have the opportunities that many others might take for granted. We’ve all heard about the tremendous successes that programs like El Sistema and others have had with children from very disadvantaged backgrounds, but this sort of salvation story happens on a widespread basis within many traditional music education programs in the U.S., too.

One inspiring story that stands out is the one we heard from Chris Moore, a director from Springdale, Ark., an area with significant economic challenges. He tells us about a child from a low-income family who wins a full college scholarship due to the effort this student put into learning the tuba. Obviously, this student’s life will be changed forever, and it is his dedication to a musical endeavor that has set him on a path to future success. Teresa Elliot, a director from Lexington, Ky., along with several other educators, tell us that they’ve heard from both recent graduates as well as students they taught many years ago, who have shared the significant influence that the experience in a music program has made in their lives. We also heard a hopeful anecdote from Lori Von Koenig of Lakeshore High School, Stevensville, Mich., about a student who, despite the significant challenges associated with autism, went on to become a successful member of the marching band. Whether Ms. Koenig’s student becomes an educator, performer, or a person who pursues a career outside of music, the impetus for his success will certainly be helped along by his pursuits in music.

This edition of SBO provides a wealth of information that supports the continued need for advocacy – from administrators, parents, and other decision makers – in order to maintain healthy, vibrant music programs. It also provides a wealth of advice from successful directors who encounter and overcome similar – and significant – difficulties.  Although we are only able to include 50 directors in this issue, we salute all of you, our readers, for making a difference in the lives of so many young people!  

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