—by Jeff Tuttle, Golden Apple Fellow and Golden Apple Board Member—
I went to an event, Saturday, the 14th of January, which was the gathering of excellent musical students from around the state known as All-State Music. More than a thousand students bussed in, provided room and board, and instructed by world-class conductors from all over the country, which concluded in a few days to a triumphant concert at Popejoy on the UNM campus. I feel like the next time I see a music educator, I will reach into my back pocket and hand them whatever cash is there, and my credit cards, the keys to my car, my house, and then perhaps a wookie-life debt, or whatever my equivalent offering could be.
The great hope and potential of a student can get lost in the maze that young people must navigate. Yet here rises these peaks of excellence, enough inspiration for the next three thousand valleys, if they can just hang on to the memory of that, remember the soaring heights they are capable of. My daughter was part of the group of musicians who played “The Pines of Rome”. No words here will suffice.
There is no endeavor that articulates better the contours of the soul, the panorama of the intangible complexities, which defy data. Music educators have long suffered the indignity of the trappings of accountability – the continuing fumbling at quantitative analysis of the qualitative, simply because music educators know that they give something so valuable it is immeasurable. In our state there is available this community, a connection to something bigger than themselves, discipline and focus, and the quality of life found in a passion for excellence. This well, in our (often) desert, is filled by the life work of music educators.
However indescribable the connection, the intrinsic value of music is not without evidence. The Guardian reported in October that a British school turned around test scores, not by focusing more on math and language, but by adding six hours of music per week. Music has powerful and visible effects on the brain for the old and young. Our music educators have always intrinsically known this, their actions have always supported this, and they have well articulated this truth with more power than words, if we would only listen. I fear my own expression of gratitude will never be enough, but it is what I have to offer, you wonderful, amazing people who comprise the New Mexico Music Educators Association: thank you.