My life involves about a hour and a half of driving per weekday now that I am employed outside my home, which gives me a lot of time to mull things over. This has been great for my writing in some ways, because it forces me to brainstorm before I sit down to type, since my typing time is so limited. But sometimes, the ideas aren't flowing, and my brain wanders to other pursuits.
For those who know me from my youth, it will come as no surprise to hear that I have a lingering obsession with music education--marching band at the high school level in particular. I know that is a weird thing to care about at all in my late thirties, but for some reason, the formative things that happened during my marching band years have stuck with me. These years were the focus of some of my thoughts as I drove this morning.
I was a little surprised to see how few band leadership seminars Dr. Tim is doing of late, but if I'm being realistic, I realize it's not reasonable for him to be charging around like he did 20 years ago. He admittedly was on the road 50 weeks of the year at that time--and he's certainly earned the right to slow down after all this time. That right coupled with the untimely passing of a major band leadership icon, George M Parks (who often partnered with Dr. Tim in teaching Band Leadership Training and Drum Major Academy) justified to me Dr. Tim's more limited schedule of student leadership seminars. But that got me to thinking. Who will carry on teaching students how to lead when Tim decides it's time to hang up the ol' mace?
The disturbing reality is the answer is maybe no one.
A large number of the friends and family I have in music education whether directly or in a supporting industry, sing the same mournful refrain. Kids aren't interested in leadership, and teachers are too busy just trying to keep their programs alive in the face of budget cuts, apathy, and student overcommitment to myriad activities to promote anyone going the next step from participant to leader. I believe this is a picture of our society as a whole. We lack deeply informed individuals who want to lead out of an altruistic desire to better the world. Certainly those people exist, but I don't think we've done a very good job in building many more of them in the generation to come. And I believe their numbers are too few to stand against the tide of selfishness so prevalent in western society.
And thus, people like Dr. Tim have fewer sold-out students to teach. And the world eventually ends up with fewer advocates for long standing icons like the Philadelphia Orchestra, which has gone bankrupt in recent months.
So to avoid the risk of ranting without posing any productive thoughts on the matter, what do I think we should be doing about the lack of students who desire training in leadership?
First, I think adults have a responsibility to demand dedication to a very few or even a single pursuit in their children. Breadth is not proving itself better than depth. Music education is great for this, because it requires consistent practice, even when it's hard, even when it's not fun. The fun comes later when you have gained a mastery of your skills and can share music with the world.
Second, I think students have a responsibility to stand up and show others that leadership is a great thing. That standing out from the crowd is a tenet of success. The small percentage of kids who still want to lead because something in their innate wiring prevents them from doing anything else need to do everything they can to spread that spark to their peers. Force the lowest common denominator higher in your areas of influence, and the effect will ripple outward.
Maybe Dr. Tim won't teach huge packs of crazed drum majors all over the country again, but I sincerely believe if we are to have a hope of pulling our fraying society back together at all, we need to relearn a love of and respect for the skills of leadership. Aside from encouraging my own little brood in that direction, I don't know what else the Lord will call me to do to that end, but my unshakable passion for leadership in the arts is keeping my ears open for whatever marching orders emerge.
Lead on, friends, and equip others when you can.