From the President (Jan. 13, 2009)

Dear Colleagues,

We all work in difficult times in music education, where the excesses of pop culture and the massive entertainment industry have eroded the basic fundamental principles of commitment, hard work and follow through that we were all raised with. I am of the opinion that we are experiencing a dramatic change in this value system, and I was again reminded of this during our recent District Choral Festival auditions and the Southern round of our All State Music
Festival auditions.

I listened to my fellow music educators discuss these issues with each other, and the issues I am hearing about continue to be repeated over and over. I am hearing so much of the same story; discouragement with student behavior, preparation for the audition process, commitment, dedication, etc. Those of us that have been around for a while have the benefit of years of teaching experience behind us; enough to be able to make comparisons and reach fair assumptions. I have talked with several colleagues about the issue of our age, trying to reach a decision about whether it is indeed our age speaking or if we indeed have a legitimate concern. I have weighed their responses and concerns against a personal background of 32 years of teaching, conducting, playing and performing, and I have reached a decision; we are in trouble in public education. I have to assume that what we experience
here in Vermont is also the experience in other parts of this country, and there is ample reason to believe that we are in the best position as music educators to initiate changes.

I have long been frustrated with with my students inability to demonstrate proper concert, rehearsal and performance etiquette. It has occurred to me that mabe I have not clearly articulated to all my students exactly what I in fact DO expect, and so I am going to speak with my performing groups this week about EXACTLY what expected behavior is. I am going to kindly and honestly tell them that I have been disappointed in the past with these things, and I will honestly inform them about what these expectations are, and than I will do all that I can to enforce these expectations.

I have attached a document that I will be handing out to my students next week in anticipation of our Thursday performance, and I will go over each aspect of this in detail after having them read it in class. It is my hope that this will be the start of a new awareness. However, if they are not told, how do we expect them to know? If you feel that there is anything useful in this document, please feel free to copy and share, or use it as a launching point for your own efforts to initiate change in this particular arena.

Just to touch on some of the points I cover in the attachment; I will simply make a short list here.

* Showing up on time for warm-ups prior to a performance

* Preparation for the day of performance.

* Concert attire

* Cell Phones

* Talking during performances

* Food

* Arriving early for events instead of in the nick of time, or even late.

* Respect for performers

* Proper behavior during performances, both as performers and as listeners.

* How to show appreciation in performances.

* Dress rehearsals.

* Staying for the entire performance.

* Creating distractions during performances.

* Entertainment versus enlightment

* Class versus crass

* Leave the conductor alone

Most Sincerely,

Frank Whitcomb

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