Machado may have had it right when he said, “Your footprints are the path and nothing else. There is no way. We make the way as we walk.” But it does help to have some idea of where you want to go. Hence, every institution has its Mission Statement and most of us make our New Year’s Resolutions. Looking back over the path I’ve taken, the way I’ve made as I walked through 40 years of music classes with kids, I’ve come up with a kind of reverse Mission Statement, putting words to my intentions that have been mostly realized in small ways and await my continued efforts to enlarge their impact.
All of this came about after being interviewed for a Graduate School thesis comparing my work with Lowell Mason. A hefty comparison and one I appreciate while doubting whether I deserve it. In terms of intention, yes, in terms of effect, hardly. Lowell Mason was a Singing School teacher back in the early 1800’s who was in the right place at the right time schmoozing with the right people. While training teachers in an evolving music education method influenced by Pestalozzi, he helped create and taught at the Boston Academy of Music. Through that work, he got to speak with the Boston School Committee and convince them to include music in the curriculum of the first public schools in the United States. The year was 1838. Small moment, big effect and one that paved the way for the Orff approach some 130 years later to take root in American schools. Without Lowell Mason, Carl Orff and my own teacher Avon Gillespie, I don’t know what I would have done with my life!
When one inherits the mantle of exalted work, one is obliged to realize the depth of what has been handed down and work to increase the height and breadth. And so, my backward-looking Mission Statement, summarized:
• To continue Lowell Mason’s work of advocating for music for all children at all ages in all schools.
• To realize the depth of Orff’s vision of a holistic music education with integrated arts, group learning, aural transmission, playful exploration and creative endeavor at the center.
• To expand Orff’s vision to include new body percussion techniques, world music, jazz.
• To realize Orff’s intuition that his work belonged in schools and Avon Gillespie’s hope to put music at the center of the school’s community and academic life.
• To expand this work beyond schools to people in all walks of life in all places at all ages.
May it continue to bear fruit in ever-larger gardens!