Monday, August 30, 2010

Be "The Engine That Moves Us Forward."

By Mark T. Burke

This morning I heard an IBM advertisement, "The Engine That Moves Us Forward".  I was struck by the simplicity of the message and energized by the hope and inspiration conveyed. Three strong words, ENGINE, MOVE and FORWARD jumped out of my radio as I listened to the NPR host read the ad.  What can the world of music education learn from the slogan of a high tech company?  Much!

As we think about our music programs, let's consider how our programs fill the role of being ENGINES, how we MOVE ourselves and those around us and to what degree are we FORWARD organizations? Here are my ideas on each.

Being An Engine:  Engine (def):  "Something used to effect a purpose" or "something that produces a particular and usually desirable result."

We need to look no further than the mission and goals of our schools to determine how successfully our music programs fill the role of being an Engine. Does you program help students meet the mission and goals of your school or district? Have you clearly thought through and communicated just how your program does this?  It's easy to get blinded by the upcoming concert prep and the demands of the marching band season.  I believe we all know we are doing what we do for purposes beyond the obvious. Take a few moments to consider your program as an Engine.

What's the MOVE?: I am certain IBM chose this word carefully. To MOVE someone is to influence them, to enlighten them, to open them to new possibilities or emotions. It's easy to forget that musical experiences are supposed to be MOVING. How many concerts have you attended, or directed, where a group performs, the audience claps on instinct at the end, another tune starts and the cycle continues? As directors, we can benefit from considering the total impact of our musical performances.  For example, a beginner band performance can be really moving for moms and dads, grandparents and other family members, but we need to help it be so. I can't possibly highlight all the ways to do so here, but it is worth saying that we often have to consider the total concert experience if we want to really move people with music. The more we move others, the more valuable music becomes in our lives and in our schools.

Are we a FORWARD organization?   It's hard to say "forward" without saying "moving forward" or "forward thinking."  I talk to many music teachers who say little has changed in their program over the years. Yet, when we talk about struggles, those certainly have changed. All organizations have to be FORWARD organizations or they will simply fade out of usefulness.  When I talk with music teachers who say, "I have to justify my program more, I have to entertain kids more, I have to ..." etc., I ask them how their program has moved forward.  I often hear responses like this.  "We've dropped in-school lessons, I no longer grade each lesson, I've stopped...." Ouch!  This is an example of a program "moving AWAY" not "moving FORWARD." Moving forward means innovating, changing, learning, growing, focusing on what works and leaving behind what doesn't, instilling new values, leaving behind old ones, listening to what our students are telling us, adapting and ensuring our art continues.

Be the Engine That Moves Us Forward. 

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