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The Best of the Best

Thomas Palmatier • December 2023Perspective • December 10, 2023

This is a very special issue for SBO+ because it puts the focus on all of you, the music teachers who make kids’ lives better every single day. There was a commonality to nearly all the submissions. Their focus was not on the director but on the students. Indeed, here’s a quote from one of them that seemed to represent the other 50:

Orchestra and band and choir is a place where students can practice working alongside those who come from varying backgrounds, cultures, demographics, and socioeconomic statuses. It is a place where those who are from various walks of life can work together and create something beautiful, despite their differences. I tell them a music ensemble is just a microcosm of the community they will end up in. I instill that in our orchestra community, we respect everyone even if their opinions and backgrounds are different than ours. We are kind and we attempt to be empathetic when we don’t understand. I tell them that in life, in any job, in any community, they will need to do all of this. And that in any community, the ability to listen to one another and work together despite our differences is a lesson that is learned in orchestra and applied in life!

Many of the awardees said teaching notes, rhythms, dynamics, and all the other facets of music performance was an expected and required part of their job but teaching those skills was not as important as developing good people.

Back when I was a band, orchestra, and chorus kid in school, it was the era of tyrant directors who seemed to feel a rehearsal was not a success unless they made someone cry! We may have played well, but it was more out of fear than anything else. Good riddance to those days. SBO+ is thrilled to recognize teachers who can achieve musical artistry with their students while fostering the development of happy and healthy adults.

Also in this issue, we polled many of the major publishers and asked them to identify their Top 5 sellers in each genre. Hopefully, you’ll see a title you may have missed and will take a closer look.

I recently heard from an SBO+ reader who rightly pointed out I made a silly mistake in one of the recent “Tom’s Tips” columns that was certainly sexist. In discussing conductor attire, I cautioned against “panty lines.” The reason I failed to see the flaw in that phrase was because I was the subject of that observation. I had completed conducting a major concert and my wife admonished me, saying I “really ought to do something about those panty lines!” The takeaway for me is if you are troubled by something, say something so the behavior can get corrected (and perhaps explained). In this case, a reader took the time to educate me. Thank you!

Finally, I received a Letter to the Editor from Madison Smith, one of Robert W. Smith’s two daughters. She shared a unique and very touching remembrance of her father.

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