It is my pleasure and honor to begin my service to you as the PMEA District 8 President. Our organization is an important resource and center for information for music education at all levels in our region, which includes, Montour, Sulllivan, Tioga and Northumberland Counties. It is my sincere desire that we deepen our commitment to our students, each other, and our profession.
Those of us in the profession have always understood, perhaps innately, that music and all the arts are essential to developing the human spirit. Aristotle wrote “Music has the power of producing a certain effect on the moral character of the soul, and if it has this power to do this, it is clear that the young must be directed to it and instructed in it.” Wise words that date back to the founding of civilization, yet how true is this even today, at a time when our moral and ethical character as a nation seems to be failing. While the battle to keep music and the arts in our schools continues, we must remember this is not the beginning, nor is it the end.
Though we sometimes feel under constant pressure to give in, to give up, to relent to the cutting and diminishing of our programs, I encourage you to stay the course. You make a tremendous difference in the lives of the students you serve. That difference is often intangible. We do not see the soul of our students, yet we know the impact music has to inspire, uplift, and motivate them. Music gives words where no other expression is adequate to express thought and emotion: the sorrows, passion, joy, exuberance, power, weakness, thoughtfulness, thoughtlessness, love, anger, and an endless plethora of human experiences we have felt, but never had words to describe.
You matter in the lives of the students you serve. You teach far beyond the musical skills of the profession, as valuable an important as they are. You teach the higher-level functions of analysis and synthesis. You teach empathy and compassion. You teach commitment, diligence, and follow-through. You teach caring, friendship, and a thirst for excellence. You teach an appreciation for beauty and the arts. Most of all, through music, you teach what it means to be human.
While we often hang our hats on the fact that our students do better in school, have higher scores in math and science, score better on the SATs and other standardized tests, we must remember that these are merely happy coincidences. Music is worthy of study of its own merits, for what it brings to the development of the individual, and for what it brings to society and culture. Only the myopic would attempt to argue that some other subject is more important, or that music and the arts are some sort of frill. We encourage the study of music for its own sake, and the myriad of benefits that directly come from the study and performance of music. There has always been “room” in the curriculum for the arts. We must not allow music and the other arts to be relegated to smaller and smaller spaces in the music curriculum. It is important that we proclaim to the heavens the power music has to shape lives, build character, build knowledge, create inquisitive and critically thinking adults. If we are but a cog on the wheel of the school curriculum, then I argue without music the gears will seize!
And so my friends, remember what a difference you make in the lives of our students, our communities, and yes – our nation. Never give up advocating for your students to learn all of life’s lessons through music. Build the best humans! To quote Dylan Thomas – “Do not go gentle into that good night.” Have a wonderful year, friends. Let us communicate often and help each other. Let there be nothing but truth in our music.
Adam F. Brennan, DMA
PMEA District 8 President
Director of Bands and Percussion Studies
Conductor, The Great Lakes Wind Symphony