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Will It Go Round in Circles?

Mike Lawson • ArchivesPerspectiveSeptember 2021 • September 6, 2021

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief Mike Lawson

It is hard to make plans these days, isn’t it? I’m so ready to make them, but the same old used to be is lingering in our new normal that is constantly changing. I am really eager to get back to travel, not just because I’m stuck at home putting on the COVID pounds and expanding my middle-aged spread. I just bought a magazine company. I want to go tell the world. I want to visit schools, music education association conferences, meet our advertisers in person, and more. But alas, the hopeful plans are again being hampered by a strong resurgence of the virus in a large swath of the country, and that large swath happens to be concentrated in the southeast on into Texas. It is surging all over, but maps tell the tale and the southeast wins the prize for outbreaks. 

I live in Tennessee. Our governor prohibited virtual schools for the most part, with some being allowed to use them during mass shutdowns again happening here. It’s a mess. Last year we forged uncharted territory and some amazing teachers fought to still deliver music instruction in the most difficult of scenarios. Now it is kind of worse for them, because it is a hodge-podge of policy being applied here. Some schools are shutting down for a couple of weeks, and little to no work is being sent home with the students in general, let alone for instrumental music programs.  

Governor Bill Lee (R) will not issue an executive order allowing district leaders remote options like last year — “in part because we saw just how devastating the learning loss impact was when we went remote.” Penny Schwinn, his education chief, says that districts have authority to temporarily move individual students, classes, or even entire schools online in response to a COVID outbreak, which would not cause the schools to tap their allotment of inclement weather, sickness, or staffing problems days. “Right now, [remote instruction] is available to use on a school-by-school basis and an individual basis. You cannot use it district-wide,” Schwinn told Chalkbeat, TN, an educational reporting website in our state.

On a national news program, Lee said that COVID does not affect children “if you follow the science.” He prohibited mask mandates, but meanwhile, by the middle of August, we had over 14,000 cases of pediatric COVID infections. 

The year is just getting started, and everything old is new again. Vaccines and masks work. They do. Politicizing virus safety does not. 

My intention for this back-to-school issue, the first one we are printing since the COVID pandemic hit, since April 2020, and the first one under my ownership, was going to be different. I was gearing up to write about planning for spring travel with your performance groups late in the game, the shift in planning where to go, contingency plans, and all things related. Many student travel destinations are still booking up for spring, and I am hoping to cover this in the upcoming issues, but maybe my excitement for the story was getting waylaid by the surge we are seeing, especially in some of the major destinations. 

Meanwhile, welcome back to school. I don’t mean that in any way other than “welcome back.” Something I saw around the country since this mess started was the resilient, resourceful, dedicated work you all do to make sure your young musicians continue to make music. As a person who had their life dramatically transformed by the desire to play music, I appreciate all you do. I know you are serving students who also will have their lives transformed. That’s why we do what we do, isn’t it? 

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