Earlier this spring, I attended the funeral of a former colleague who was a long-time music educator at College of the Ozarks. I was impressed and inspired by the folks who spoke and shared stories about my colleague. Most of these speakers were former students now doing impressive things in all realms of the music world.
When a funeral is done right, it seems to me, one leaves the service inspired by the deceased’s life, but also reminded of some important perspectives about life in general, and in this case, education. I know that as I left, I was indelibly reminded of three things.
I was reminded, first, of the value and impact of good teaching and a good teacher. Students who spoke of their mentor’s influence in touching – and funny – terms were clearly now passing along those same influences in multiple ways to those for whom they have become mentors. And, of course, this impact will continue for untold generations.
Second, I was reminded of the importance of music in particular – and the arts in general – in our lives. Which of us does not have our own music (of whatever style) that speaks to us, that moves us, that energizes us, that supports us?
Finally, of course, I was then similarly reminded of the resulting importance of music in particular – and the arts in general – in our educational systems. Think of that music that moves us, whether classical, rock & roll, or other. Where do we think those musicians first discovered – and then began to cultivate – their craft? Do we think they suddenly decided, after graduating from high school, “I want to play the saxophone”?
We must somehow, as a society, find ways to slow the elimination of music in particular – and the arts in general – from our educational curriculum. Or we must find a (financial?) way to allow schools to continue to provide these crucial elements of education for students to discover. Or, we must find ways to do it by ourselves.
Along those lines, have you heard of Ozark Mountain Music, Inc? Their mission is to pass the traditional music of the Ozarks on to other generations of fiddlers. Ozark Mountain Music runs fiddle camps each summer, and after-school programs during the school year. The Possum Holler Fiddlers are the showcase fiddlers of the program, making performances at all kinds of events throughout the year.
The program receives some support from the Missouri Arts Council, but it is the brainchild of Bob and Karlene McGill. They are doing wonderful things with the programs – and with the lives of the young fiddlers, some with exceptional talent, previously unknown. Perhaps your (grand)child could be one of them? Discover much more (including information about their summer camps!) at Ozarkmountainmusic.com, There are pictures and contacts at the site. And why not donate as well?
Traditional Ozark fiddling is not likely to be in the curriculum of many schools, so here is a group doing something about that on its own. Will we eventually need the same type of groups for the more traditional music and arts programs?
All of which leads us to the future. How do we manage, in these challenging times for education, to preserve environments which sustain excellent teaching and mentoring for our students? How do we manage to preserve music in particular – and the arts in general – in our schools? We must find creative ways to maintain these crucial features of our educational systems. We must do this for our society, for our students and for their futures.