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The Remembrance of Why

Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser • April 2022Commentary • April 20, 2022

During the last two years our profession has been turned upside down because of the impact-and-effects of the pandemic; it has provided an unprecedented test of our attitude, tenacity, creativeness, convictions, commitment, dedication, and a host of many other personal character attributes. If anything, it has amplified the truth in Winston Churchill’s famous quote:

“The pessimist sees the challenge in every opportunity. 

The optimist sees the opportunity in every challenge.”

Our Conn-Selmer family hails you and your colleagues for weathering-the-storm and for “embracing the challenges” by exploring an endless landscape of opportunities to engage your students, your music parents, your administrators, and your entire music community. Bravo!  We offer a long-and-extended standing ovation in your honor. Above all, it afforded the chance to focus on why we do what we do *and* in many ways it strengthened our resolve and reinforced the critical importance of music learning and music making. 

The Why of it All
Have you ever stopped to think why we do what we do?  WHY do we dedicate our time, our intellectual energies, our creative talents…ultimately our lives to the world of band/orchestra directing?  What is it about this musical, educational, organizational, administrative, always-challenging professional pathway that keeps bringing us back to the rehearsal room, the performance stage, and to those extraordinary students who are willing to go the extra mile to follow us with a sense of commitment unique to the school community?  The answer is certainly different for everyone, but the common denominators are:

  • The love of music
  • The excitement of introducing others to the joy of music-making.
  •  The satisfaction of witnessing the growth of our students as their talents unfold.
  • The opportunity to create a forum-of-learning to support the development of our future citizens.
  • The chance to make a positive difference through the connection to the artistic world.

…just to mention a few. 

In many ways the above list reflects the requisite assignment we all wrote for our MUSED 101 class:  My philosophy of music education. When was the last time we revisited those mantras?  Is it possible we get so busy involved with the what of “the doing” we forget the why of “the doing?”  In our urgency to responsibly prepare our ensembles for a concert, a festival, a contest, it is so easy to put more emphasis on the extremes (the goal) than we do on the means (the process), and in doing so we inadvertently sidestep the why? So what?  Why would it make any difference if the outcome represents a quality-based performance?  Who cares how we get there if we arrive?  Won’t the why become clear as soon as we accomplish the what?  All are fair questions, and many would argue the extremes (the goal) justifies the means (the process).

Let us look at this from a different perspective. We know intrinsic motivation is triggered via the understanding of why we are doing this-or-that. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, requires something outside the individual to stimulate forward motion. Unquestionably any master teacher will use a combination to bring student musicians to a high level of technical proficiency, but the dominant motivation will come from the performers. It is their collective contribution that fuels the journey of musical excellence:  not the journey to musical excellence, but the journey of musical excellence. The key to tapping the unlimited resource of human potential lies in the understanding of why we are being asked to do what we are being asked to do. This is true for something as obvious as requesting a crescendo to an accompaniment phrase to support the musical line of the melody…or attending an additional rehearsal to accommodate a guest conductor’s limited rehearsal time. When we comprehend the why the what is much more easily accomplished.

•  For Our Students:  They deserve to know the why, and we must carefully explain the why so they can be empowered to contribute with the understanding of the personal and group benefits that will come from their investment.

  For Our Professional Welfare:  We must take the time to step back and constantly look at the why of our thoughts and actions. Boredom, frustration, and burnout are the result of becoming disconnected with our reasons of why we chose to be band/orchestra directors in the first place.

•  For Our Parents/Boosters:  Do these great supporters really understand the lasting impression of music learning?  Are they cognizant of the compelling data highlighting the extended benefits of music study?  There is more to this than joining-the-band/orchestra, buying an instrument, and attending concerts…far more. We must avail them to why music is such a crucial aspect of the growth and development of every child.

•  For The Health Of The Program:  Let us be reminded we are privileged to be a part of an educational system that supports music education…and we get to teach it!  For many of the young musicians the band/orchestra director is, without question, their most influential teacher. The standards we set determine how they will approach every aspect of their lives, and when they understand why we set bar so high, they also see the relevance of the same criteria as it applies to everything they do.

May I suggest you are reading this article because of a band/orchestra director who had a profound impact on your life; you are now passing that priceless treasure of musical understanding on to your own students…what greater why could there be?  That’s why!

We invite you to join us for a first class reunion at this summer’s 25th annual Conn-Selmer Institute:  June 12-15, 2022, Bethel University, Mishawaka, Indiana. You will be joined by an all-star faculty and 400 fellow band/orchestra directors of like minds. That’s a priceless why, for sure!

Let The Music Begin

SBO readers can attend the Conn-Selmer Institute at a discount! Go to connselmerinstitute.com and use promo code SBO100 for $100 off in-person CSI or SBO20 for 20% off virtual CSI.

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