by Kari Miller
It’s been quite a few years since I attended school, yet every year when September rolls around I still get that “back to school” feeling. It’s a weird mixture of excitement and dread, with hope and fear jostling for supremacy as the blank slate of a new year looms ahead. We bustle about gathering our supplies, get- ting ourselves ready, preparing for either the familiar or the unknown, or both at the same time. There isa faint tinge of sadness hovering around the edges, sadness at the passing of the carefree days of summer, but then the new routine kicks in and we are on our way.They say that most people have dreams about their schooldays throughout their entire lives. I certainly do; the dreams of high school always feature a lost locker combination and the college-era dreams usually involve an impending final exam in a class thatI didn’t attend but forgot to drop. (That one is more like a nightmare, but not as bad as a performance- anxiety dream!) All kidding aside though, somehow my school days do not seem so far away or long ago, and I do not feel myself to be so different from the person I was then. I am still learning and study- ing and yes, (in the school of life) still taking tests and making good or bad grades.
We probably all feel ourselves to be educators of some sort, whether
or not we officially “teach.” We are constantly educating our choirs and our congregations, sharing our ideas and insights with those who find our music a somewhat mysteri- ous business. We should remember that we all are also students. Our student days never end. If we are to thrive and grow as musicians (and as people) we need to keep on learning – learning all sorts of things. We learn by practicing and performing, by attending concerts and workshops, by reading, by talking with colleagues, by follow- ing our trails of interest, by asking questions (and listening to the answers); we even learn from our failures and disappointments. If we pay attention, we can learn a lot every day about ourselves, about other people, the world, life and of course music.
What a privilege to be in a profession which offers so many opportunities to learn! There will always be a new organ piece or choir anthem to add to the repertoire, a new modulation or unusual registration to experiment with, a new skill to add to the toolbox. We are never too old or too accomplished to learn something new. Hopefully we are never too set in our ways or too bored to be interested in learning something new. Learning new things, things that we choose to learn, things that truly engage us, can be tremendously rewarding and empowering.
So, even though a few of my lazy bones are groaning, even though my inner child is screaming “too soon!,” even though I didn’t get through half of my summer ‘to-do’ list, I still say – it’s September and it’s “back to school” for me!