Dear New Orleans, Meet Tibet.

“Without depending on tradition, we cannot do anything. So until we become enlightened, we cannot reject faith that depends on tradition. In order to communicate, it is always necessary to deal with…tradition. But if we rely on it with rigid attachment, then through our clinging we are trapped by tradition”. – Thinley Norbu Rinpoche

Until we are master musicians: masters of our own instrument(s), a particular style or era, a musical culture – we have no skill – we cannot do anything. Until we become musical masters, we can’t reject tradition – and we can’t branch away from it. It’s our starting point. We’re musical seeds, watered by tradition, sprouting, growing – shined down upon by the musicians we revere until we reach our potential. And yet (as in New Orleans), “if we rely it with rigid attachment, then through our clinging we are trapped by our tradition”.

That’s the distinction between those who thrive and stay, and those who thrive and climb out.

Tibetan Buddhism has a patent structure from beginning to end. They have a map – they don’t get lost. Musically, so many young musicians are lost. It’s why I believe so strongly in Irvin Mayfields’ current undertaking – his road to Carnegie Hall tour. Although as with every Mayfield project this one has an array of agendas, one involves creating a patent structure from beginning to end. It involves a flow chart of how young musicians can perform their way out of the tradition while still revering it: a step by step guide from point A of picking up that horn for the first time to stepping on stage at Carnegie. The idea, of course, isn’t that every young musician can follow the path. The idea is to show them that aforementioned distinction: simply that they have the choice, and the power to make it happen.

Tradition and Function, Fulfilment, and Dreams

I’m at an important junction where I no longer have to concentrate solely on western music. If you know me, you know I’ve been waiting for this to happen now for years.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate and acknowledge the function of European and American music – I’m completely immersed in it. I just want to explore musics’ function in other cultures, in traditions and ceremony, political function, spiritual function – everything I haven’t been able to do as of yet.

I wish I could just absorb it all – every sound made in every village of the world. I can’t.

Teaching as a Community of Music Educators

We don’t think enough about how to teach music as a community of music educators. We think about the importance of it, and the narrow sequences of how to do it in individual classrooms… but there’s no strong standard on what kinds of music should be taught, what students should be exposed to (and at what age), or what we completely leave out. We spend a lot of our time defending the art, the profession, the curriculum – talking about the value of music education for all students.

Professional Goals, Integration, Ethnomusicology

Things tend to write themselves when they’re important. I was asked today to describe my professional goals, and since I recently realized that on paper my goals don’t line up with my background (they do – just not in a bulleted sequence without explanation), I need to be particularly clear about them. This is what I came up with. I think it’s something everyone should do – to have an idea of where they want to go and the important part – how to get there. As an aside, that’s also why I feel so strongly about Irvin’s “Road to Carnegie Hall” project.

My response to this has changed dramatically in the past ten years. While I agree with Frank Battisti on the concept of music teachers as teaching artists and the need for a conservatory education rather than a liberal arts education, I also strongly feel like I never would have been exposed to nearly all of my current interests if I had gone that route.

So, my response:

My professional goals include an integration of the European art music and music education background I’ve already received with the research in ethnomusicology that I plan to do. My ambition is to research and publish topics related to this integration, and ultimately hold a faculty position at an institution with both a growing ethnomusicology department, and a strong music education department.

On a large scale I wish to study individual non-western traditions, and more narrowly to research and archive the music of eastern religions. I aspire to discover their learning processes, gain a deeper understanding of musical transmission, learn the impact of both the social and political context of music, untangle the global effect of technology on music making and its reception, and lastly, to study the struggle between traditional and popular music. While lofty, this subject matter will enable me to connect with the global community of ethnomusicologists and network with music educators to ensure that traditions are kept alive, and that a logical sequence to world music education is produced.