It has been a REALLY busy, harried, controversial, challenging year for everyone. And if you are like me I am sure all of you are ready for a well-deserved break.

But before mine starts I have one last task to complete…

My Annual Christmas Wish List for Santa! 


Dear Santa,

As I have for the past 8 years I would like to forgo any gifts for myself and instead provide the Santa with a list of gifts for others who could certainly benefit from some thoughtful presents. Yes, some have been naughty and some have been nice. But everyone deserves something, right?

So without further adieu please deliver the following gifts as soon as possible:

For Congress: A calendar and a watch. The Obama administration has done an end run around congress by allowing states to apply for waivers from the daunting No Child Left Behind legislation. This has happened because Congress is not only late taking action on the law’s reauthorization… they are FOUR YEARS late. Come on guys (and gals)… what the heck are we paying you to do in Washington… go to dinner with lobbyists? I can’t wait for the first state to be awarded waivers from NCLB (which would dub most schools in the US as failing by 2014 if nothing is done) since this would be followed by the requisite lawsuits! At this rate the law will be reauthorized when my grandchild starts high school… and I don’t even have a child old enough to have provide me with a grandchild!

For the Presidential Candidates: Box set of the 2008 Presidential Primary Debates or a New Candidate. Yes… I know I asked for this last year… but this request obviously went unfulfilled. 2008 was the first time in our history where we had a majority of the presidential candidates speaking eloquently about music and arts education and the need to help support the arts in schools. This is NOT the case with our current crop of candidates. Actually they have all been scarily silent! In fact, these folks couldn’t spell arts if we spotted them an A R T and an S. 2008 was an informed discussion about arts education. It is time to remind tis years crop of candidates where we stand. Is it too late to draft Mike Huckabee?

For the Arts Education Community: A New Narrative. Yes I know we have lost some teachers and our programs are getting squeezed… but the reality is the vast majority of our schools offer music education and nearly 100% of our high schools provide these programs. The rumors of our demise have been greatly exaggerated and we need to push back against this notion that music has disappeared from our schools and therefore OK to cut arts programs because everyone is doing it. Everyone else is not doing it so it is NOT OK. Instead of bemoaning cuts we need to showcase the prevalence of our programs so we show those who wish to cut programs exactly what they are… out of touch with the majority of schools in the country.

For All Teacher Evaluation Task Forces: A Research 101 Course. Using student performance scores to measure teacher effectiveness is an interesting sound bite and certainly has become all the rage for education reform. But as a researcher I learned a long time ago not to use a measure designed for one thing (students skills and knowledge) for something not really related (teacher effectiveness). If we want to measure the effectiveness of teachers we need to develop the appropriate measures. The last thing we need to use to measure a music teacher’s effectiveness, which some states have proposed, is how a student performs… in MATH!

For School Administrators – A new way to evaluate students! Our schools rabid obsession with test is breading all the joy out of learning. A wise person once said “you don’t fatten a pig by weighing it all the time.” And I might add – you do not impart knowledge to our students by testing them all the time. Enough already! 

For the National Association for Music Education – A Better Acronym. I’m sorry. But if you thought NAfME was a better acronym than MENC, I think you might be mistaken. Just as the American Symphony Orchestra League (Acronym = ASOL – say it slowly as a word) to the League of American Orchestras because of the teasing over these four awkwardly aligned letters… how do you think it will go over as people start saying the letters NAfME slowly and with a certain emphasis? A concerned member pointed this out to me! I am certain this is not what the organization had intended. The betting is now open on how long it will be until the “f” in NAfME disappears. Even my spell checker wants to remove the “f”.

For Ohio State University Marching Band  – A New Band Director. The man who has led the “Best Damn Band in the Land”, Jon Woods will be retiring at the end of this school year. “For a quarter of a century, Jon Woods has always struck precisely the right note as director of The Ohio State University Marching Band,” said Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee. “Jon's legacy, like Script Ohio itself, is simply incomparable.  We are grateful for his unflagging leadership and countless contributions.”  Which means…

For Jon Woods – Our Thanks and Gratitude! For his years of contribution the University gave him the one of the greatest presents ever… he was selected to dot the I” in the Ohio script formation for the final home game – an appropriate tribute to a true leader in music education. Jon Woods has always conducted himself with utmost integrity and class as leader of the Buckeyes. Which is a fitting contrast to:

For Columbia University Band – A Day with Jon Woods. It is certainly clear this group needs some adult supervision. After embarrassing the football team’s players, coaches, alumni and parents with their…different rendition of the schools fight song “Roar, Lion, Roar,” at the conclusion of football contest against Cornell the Columbia University Marching Band was barred from performing at the seasons final game of the season against Brown. Instead of Roar Lion Roar it became We always lose lose lose; by a lot and sometimes by a little… and continues while getting increasingly juvenile and tasteless. While it may have sounded good when you were doing pong shots it was a VERY bad idea. A day with Jon may allow enough class to rub off on you to keep you from being, well… banned!

For Tulsa Oklahoma – A Bottling Company! I am not really sure what is in the water out there… but after having THREE Tulsa high school marching bands placing in the top SEVEN bands at the Bands of America Grand Nationals (Broken Arrow, Union and Owasso) it must be something really good. Could it be that the center of the Marching Band Universe is shifting west from Indianapolis to Tulsa? Only time will tell… but in the mean time, I’ll take a truckload of whatever water they are drinking! And while I am at it a big shout out to Darrin Davis, James Stephens and the entire Broken Arrow High School Marching Band for their Grand Nationals Championship.

For Representative Gabby Giffords: The Life Long Gift of Music! Less than a month after she was shot in the head, Giffords met with music therapist Maegan Morrow at the Rehabilitation Hospital in Houston. Giffords was unable to speak. Marrow felt she might have a way to cut through the trauma Giffords' brain was dealing with by way of "a very familiar song." 'Happy birthday to you'. Morrow sang Happy Birthday to the mute congresswoman "and I left the end of the phrase out and tried to get Gabby to sing along with me." Giffords didn't sing. Instead, she grabbed the hand of the therapist to physically but silently complete the missing word of the phrase "Happy Birthday to …." Thus began a several month journey to restore Giffords speaking voice highlighting once again the incredibly powerful impact music has on cognitive development. It rewired her brain so she could speak! Just think of the impact music must have on the developing brain of our students! This is a story worthy of sharing with ALL our school administrators.

For the Steve Jobs – Our Undying Thanks! I know many of you, like me, have used or been influenced by Apple products and the design genius that is the late Stave Jobs. From the original Macintosh computers we all used to do the first computer based scoring, arranging and drill design programs, to the iPod music player that changed how the world consumed and explored music, to the iOS devices (iPhone/iPad) all of which have altered the way we teach, communicate and consume media. I am hard pressed to think of another company or visionary who’s products have contributed to not only our music but quality of our lives. Thanks Steve!

And lastly, to all our readers, who bring the wonderful gift of music to students across this nation everyday — may you receive as much joy this holiday season as you give to your students and have a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year!


Reposted from the December 2011 issue of School Band and Orchestra Magazine 





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