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Win YOUR Race

Thomas Palmatier • October 2023Perspective • October 15, 2023

SBO+: Just as we were going to print, we learned of the passing of Robert W. Smith. Robert was not just an incredible composer; he was an incandescent ball of energy devoted to music education. I count myself as one of his thousands of “best friends.” If you read nothing else in this issue, please read page 16 where we share a few reminiscences from just a few of those he touched during his extraordinary life.

Each month I try to come up with a cover that will hopefully entice you to look inside, being curious about what’s in that issue. A few weeks ago, I was talking with former SBO editor and current publisher of SBO+ and Musical Merchandise Review (MMR) magazines, Mike Lawson. He said in passing that SBO+ covers were seen by many as “iconic” because they say something profound about the world of music education. Can you say, “performance anxiety!?!?” Way to add pressure to what I thought was a routine part of my job! You know, pick out a picture, write a headline; what’s so hard about that?

So, this month I have been thinking about the many, many times when I was advised that my job as a band director was a “marathon, not a sprint.” In other words, have a strategy and a plan on what to accomplish because you can’t do everything all at once and you don’t want to burn out. However, that analogy never seemed to make much sense to me. Marathons are usually run on well-kept roads with regular water breaks available and cheering crowds. Sprints are held on a track with starting blocks, track shoes, and usually ideal conditions and again, cheering crowds. Does that sound like the experience of a music teacher? No!

I’ve done a bit of cross-country racing and logged lots of miles on trails all around the world. Those runs were usually done alone, and weather and trail conditions could go from pleasant to awful with little warning. I would sometimes get lost and logged many extra miles to find my way home. Sometimes I would trip and fall. No one cheered me on, and the only water was what I brought along with me. Occasionally, there would be a gentle downhill slope with a good surface, and you could really fly. Other times, the entire run seemed to be uphill. Now that feels like being a music teacher!

I taught general music a few days this past week and was reminded again of the challenges all of you face in classrooms. You can make great lesson plans and have the most awesome classroom set-up and superb administrators but some days when those students enter, they act like they just drank a cup of espresso with six lumps of sugar. Your gentle downhill slope just became a brutal uphill climb! No matter the challenges you face, keep going – your students need you!

Col. (Ret.) Thomas Palmatier

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