Sunday, March 28, 2021

Mission Mentality

Today is the last day of 2020. Obviously, it's been a challenging year for everyone. There have been huge health challenges for so many people across the world, income and economic challenges for workers, teaching challenges for folks in education, learning challenges for students across the world, social, racial, and political division and mistrust, and certainly emotional challenges that accompany all of these for folks in so many ways. 

Our world is in desperate need of healing. And, individuals are in desperate need of direction, purpose, and peace. This has been the topic of many conversations for me in recent days and weeks. and I would like to share just a couple of thoughts as we move into 2021.

I will begin with a quick story about my college age son. He is currently a sophomore at the University of North Carolina and has experienced his own challenges with the pandemic and all the uncertainty which accompanies it. Last year, as a freshman, he made the decision to become a leader in the Young Life program. As a Young Life leader, he is tasked with leading Young Life activities and club meetings at a regional high school. In addition, he will forge relationships with the high school students who attend the meetings and endeavor to be a positive role model in their lives. The Young Life leaders at his high school were very good to him and he is giving back in a similar way. During his freshman year, when he was deciding if this was a good activity for him, we had quite several deep conversations. At one point, he told me that when you are a Young Life leader, you wake up every day asking yourself, "How can I care for someone else today?" I have thought about that quite a bit over the past year or so. I am not sure that I could have said that when I was 20 years old. That is a pretty cool daily mission for a college sophomore.

My wife has been listening to a the Spotify Daily Quote recently which  encourages folks to consider a quote and then expands on that quote to some extent. Recently, the quote of the day was from reggae rapper, Bad Bunny. While the quote itself doesn't have strong application to my thoughts today, the insights that followed the quote precipitated some interesting thoughts for my wife. In the pandemic environment, we like so many others have been home constantly. So many of the daily tasks have become repetitive, mundane, and at times laborious. The one that is hit her hardest has been cooking for our high school senior son. He is an athlete and on a special high protein diet to build muscle and strength. In support of that diet, my wife finds herself making baked chicken, roasted sweet potatoes, and white rice every day. His diet involves five meals a day and the work to keep this specific food available to him is never ending. It could easily become a very negative chore on her list. She was explaining to me that it is so much more positive to view this to-do list as an opportunity, rather than a chore. She mentioned to me that the concept of chores was strong in her home growing up. And, it is so much more enjoyable to accomplish things, rather than simply complete chores. Her mission, in this task of cooking, is to support our son's athletic goals. Viewing those darn sweet potatoes as part of a mission is a much healthier way to approach the task.

I feel like I have been fairly successful in this pandemic environment.  I have been able to maintain a positive attitude, starting each day with a sense of joy. The word I have used with regards to my work over the years is mission, which brings me to the point of this essay. For me, approaching each day with a mission mentality is an important key to happiness, fulfillment, and a general air of positivity in my daily life. When I approach my tasks as mission, there is a much greater purpose. Mission implies importance. Mission implies commitment. Mission speaks of doing something for the greater good which is much bigger than one's self. I believe that we can find mission in virtually every move we make during the day. 

When I was a young man, I had an awesome job at a local jewelry store in Indiana, PA. My work at the store began as simply a way to make a little bit of extra money. I learned how to engrave jewelry, do basic bookkeeping, and greet the public on the floor of the store. But, after a period of time, the work at the store became more of a mission. I became much more committed to my close friend who managed the store, the ownership, and most importantly, to the mission of providing folks with friendly service, reliable quality, and a trusted voice in their purchases. I developed a true loyalty to the mission of the store and developed deep relationships with the folks that taught me about the business. I approached my job with a mission mentality.

As I finished up college and began my teaching career, my first teaching opportunity was in Palmyra Pennsylvania. I have written about it before, so I won't spend too much time on that work here. But, suffice it to say, that I approached that work with a mission mentality. The string program was quite small when I arrived at the school and I was challenged to develop the string program for the school district. I had a mission. It was clear. I committed to it fully and spent six years giving all of myself to that mission. (As a sidebar, I was having a conversation with my son about success in the workplace yesterday. I told him that I really believe that early in one's career, you must commit fully and be willing to put in long hours, hard work, and not be concerned about work-life balance so much. It's really not a popular stance in today's society, but in 1987 that was the way we did things. It was the era of the yuppie, long hours, and getting ahead quickly. I think this was seminal to my commitment to mission mentality.) My mission at Palmyra was successful and other opportunities came quickly. I had a similar experience at Eleanor Roosevelt high School and spent nine years there pursuing my mission before coming to the North Carolina School of Science and Math.

In the ensuing 20 years at NCSSM, my mission has changed from time to time. Most recently, I have been named Fine Arts Chair for the Durham and Morganton campuses. This is a new mission for me and I'm really excited about whatever the future holds. We are currently in the process of hiring administrators for the new school in Morganton and I am also happy to be guiding two new music faculty members through their transition into our school environment in Durham. I have a mission.

Obviously, the mission changed in March of 2020. Suddenly, the mission was to keep engaging students in Orchestra and music while caring for them as individuals through the two-dimensional Zoom environment. It is a tricky mission. And, throughout that time, to continue to support my other Fine Arts colleagues, advance the school’s mission, and navigate all of the stresses that go with working from home, family trials and tribulations throughout the pandemic environment, and personal emotional ups and downs. But, the great thing about having a mission is that one bad day doesn't change the mission. In fact, in some ways, it can galvanize one's resolve to do better in the future. That has certainly been the case for me. I have found that my failures of today become my challenges for tomorrow. This is the essence of mission mentality. 

So, I challenge you today to consider what is your mission? What is your purpose? What do you hold in highest importance in your tasks throughout the day? 

I believe there can be multiple answers to these questions. Some days, my mission is in family matters. I work to be a good example to my kids, a partner to my wife, and a helper wherever possible. Other days, my mission is in my art. I am practicing, writing new music, recording audio guides for my students, generating blog or video content, and other artistic endeavors. On the other days, I am a colleague, a teacher, a friend, a student, a son. Yet, in all these rolls, I can have a mission mentality. These roles and accompanying tasks are important to me. I approach them with purpose. And, I try to approach them with joy and good humor. As I often say in this blog, I am not perfect. I don't always achieve my goals. Sometimes, I lose sight of my sense of mission. Sometimes the tasks in front of me simply become chores. Those are my worst days. They are the days that I feel unfulfilled, unhappy, or downright depressed. So, I try to keep the days I lose sight of my mission to an absolute minimum.

Let me encourage you today to find your mission. It requires some deep thought.  What do you hold as truly important - so important that you are willing to dedicate your time, your heart, and thoughts. What is your true purpose? Certainly there are multiple answers to these questions.  You are likely doing many of these things already. But, are you committed to them as your mission?  Perhaps 2021 is your opportunity to refocus or refine your sense of mission. Even the exercise of putting my thoughts in writing today has provided that opportunity for me. I wish all of you the very best as we move into 2021 and the continuation of the academic year. I know that so many of us are growing weary of distance learning and the pandemic environment. Hang in there! You have a mission. You can do this! 

 Peace. 

 Scott






Friday, March 12, 2021

Steadfast

One of my favorite words and concepts is "steadfast." Lately, that word keeps coming up in my thoughts and ruminations about life, the pandemic, and teaching. I don't know exactly when I started thinking about this word. But I do know that the first thought that comes to mind around the word steadfast is my father. My Dad, who is now 85 and still very active and had an amazing career in public education. He's one of the few educators I know who spent an entire 42-year career in the same school system. First he was an elementary teacher, then Principal, then Director of Elementary Education, Assistant Superintendent, and finally, was Superintendent of Schools in my hometown for the final 25 years of his career.  He retired in 1997. Steadfast. But, it wasn't just in his longevity at one employer. He was in it for the duration from the beginning. He had enduring friendships and collegial relationships with virtually everyone I knew who worked for the school system. He was not only their leader, he was also their friend. He and my mom have been married for 66 years. Steadfast. He served the church for many years as a member of the session and for the last several years as Clerk of the Session. This was a leadership position that carries very little adulation and a great deal of influence and importance in the Presbyterian Church. He was steadfast for his church as well. 

So, what exactly does steadfast mean and how does it relate to my life today and the work that we all do in the midst of the pandemic?

To be steadfast is to be resolute. To be steadfast is to be unwavering. Steadfast is firmly fixed and immovable, firm in belief, determined, and loyal. It's funny because I can remember times in my young life when I was criticized for being loyal. And, in fact, sometimes I was loyal to a fault. But that's okay. It has manifested as I have matured into a quality I am proud of.

I truly desire to be steadfast in so many facets of my life and work. First and foremost, it is important that I am at steadfast member of my family. I have been married for 30 years and I can honestly stay that the longevity of our relationship and friendship is based on a common value of this concept. I also truly hope that my kids find my unconditional love for them to be steadfast. We don't go up and down based on daily actions, mistakes, or successes. The way I feel about my boys doesn't change from day to day. My love for them is steadfast. 

I'm celebrating 20 years at NCSSM this year. To some extent, I feel like my work at the school has also been reflection of this value. There have been some hard days over the years. But there have been way more fantastic days. There have been some failures. But there have been way more successes. And, all of them are a direct result of this inclination to be steadfast. Have there been other opportunities that have come my way? Of course. But none of them seemed quite right. It felt much more natural to be steadfast. As I move into a new leadership role at my school, I truly do think about this concept as it relates to my work in guiding curriculum, faculty, and programs.

I feel like steadfast can also be a daily approach.  Is my attitude unwavering?  Is my approach unwavering?  I guess no one is truly unwavering. We all have ups and downs, good days and bad.  But, can I be generally consistent?  This is my goal.  Can I be steady?  Predictable?  Our role as educators is exactly this.  Our students desire consistency.  They need us to be predictable in the manner we communicate, teach, discipline, correct, assess, and interact.  I really try not to get too high or low when things go well or poorly. Class didn't go well today? There is always tomorrow.  A performance was exceptional?  Excellent - that is what we were striving for! Now, what is next?

As I approach the end of this academic year, I continue to seek to be steadfast.  We are all getting weary of the pandemic and all of the inconveniences associated with its impact on education, learning, and life in general.  But, in the midst of the storm, I will continue to try to be steadfast, unwavering, and consistent.  And, when we get back to in person learning, I will do the same. I encourage you to consider this approach as well.

Peace.
Scott






Monday, March 8, 2021

ASTA 2021: Relative Topics for High School String Teachers

 First, I want to thank all of the ASTA Members who participated in the moderated discussion on Sunday on Relative Topics for High School String Teachers. It was a great discussion and it was my honor to participate and moderate!!

I promised that I would seek out some more information on longitudinal involvement in the arts as a benefit toward college admission.  I will place it here as I find more.


Check out this article as a start: Why Extracurriculars Matter in College Admissions

Also this: How Colleges Weigh Extracurricular Activities

Finally: What Do Colleges Look for in Students


I believe that each of these articles will she some light on the process and give you some good talking points for your administration, colleagues, students, and families!


I will post more as I have it.

Again, thanks for participating and I look forward to the next time!


Peace.

Scott



Monday, February 22, 2021

NAfME Orchestra Town Hall on Mission in Music Education

 I was recently quite honored to be involved in a NAfME town hall to discuss our "Mission" as instrumental educators.  The event was scheduled for Sunday, February 21st starting at 1:00pm (Pacific Time). 

The entire event was virtual and lasted a total of 2 hours. The first hour was a panel discussion  facilitated as a webinar. Attendees were encouraged to submit questions and comments through the chat feature.  In the second hour, everyone was able to join with their camera and microphones. The dialog was open to everyone in attendance! We continued with questions that were submitted during the panel and appropriately branch off into related topics fueled by the attendees. 

Following the event, the panelists were asked to submit some of our thoughts in writing.  I thought some of you may be interested as well. So, here are some of my responses from the Town Hall.


Why are missions/philosophies important in contemporary American Education? 

Missions and philosophies are important in contemporary American Education, in my opinion, for three specific reasons.  First, they provide individuals guidance for daily decisions and positions. When one is under pressure or faced with a difficult decision, core philosophies or missions serve as an important compass for thoughtful individuals.  They provide clarity in times of crisis. Next, they are an important factor in personal career and job fulfillment.  For me, approaching each day with a mission mentality is an important key to happiness, fulfillment, and a general air of positivity in my daily life. When I approach my tasks as a mission, there is a much greater purpose. Mission implies importance. Mission implies commitment. Mission speaks of doing something for the greater good which is much bigger than one's self.  Missions are honest and go beyond "chores or tasks" in our daily work. Finally, a sense of teacher mission can promote student buy-in and investment in the work and content of the course.  Students sense honesty.  Real learning isn’t about content delivery.  It is about modeling.  Our students are learning MUCH  more than our content every day in class.  


What is YOUR mission as a music educator?

At its core, my primary mission is to serve as a musical and personal model for students.  I seek to lead and serve in my every move as an instructor.  I seek to love and care for my students and colleagues on a daily basis.  But, in reality, my mission changes throughout the day.  I seek to serve students as an example of Artist/Educator and I seek to promote and articulate concepts in functional and creative musicianship every day. I seek to model as an example of the term “steadfast.” I try to “move with purpose” throughout the day and bring tasks to completion.  This goes hand in hand with my stated mission of “servant leadership.”  I seek to build healthy unwavering relationships and promote honest, unbiased communication.  Finally, another stated mission for me is to simply say “yes” to students whenever possible.


How do you craft your mission to best serve your community: what factors need to be considered, which factors are commonly overlooked? 

I believe clarity of mission develops over a number of years and with thoughtful consideration. Our longevity in career and expectations of our position can help to clarify our mission as well.  For me, early in my career, my mission was to become the best and most knowledgeable pedagogue I could possibly be.  In the end, I was developing the tools of teaching during  this time period. I was teaching in central Pennsylvania for 6 years and was charged with building a string program in my community.  The next phase of my career was about 10 years in suburban Washington DC. I stepped into a position where the expectation was strong string and orchestra ensembles.  So, my mission centered around conducting, building ensembles, and building community among my students. For the past 20 years I have been at the North Carolina School of Science and Math.  Here, my mission varies significantly.  I have many roles at my school and must nimbly move between them. I seek to serve as a model teacher, leader, colleague, mentor, and guide.  When I apply my priorities and philosophies to the practical responsibilities of my everyday work the mission develops.


How are models for instruction supported/limited by your mission?

There are so many examples of this.  The mission of modeling functional musicianship as an artist and articulating this as an educator guides virtually all of my pedagogy.  This is outlined in detail in Ensemble Musicians Taxonomy of Mental Habits on my blog, “Thoughts of a String Educator.”  I also believe that many of my models for instruction are supported by my mission to “Just say yes”, and “servant leadership.”  For example, I model performance practices all the time and frequently demonstrate on my instrument in class.  This is a direct reflection of a servant leadership model.  


Finally, I would love to share my recent blog post, "Mission Mentality" here as well. It was written just a few weeks before I was asked to serve on this panel. Some readers may find it interesting.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Trying To Be Better

As we start the second semester, I am coming off a period of reflection throughout the winter break and January term.  When we finished up the first semester of the school year, I felt quite good about the results of my planning and instruction throughout the fall. Teaching in this remote and hybrid environment is difficult. My Orchestra managed to put together some incredible virtual performances and, on the whole, I feel like I met the needs of my students. With that said, I know that I can be better. I have been reflecting on areas for improvement for the past two months or so and was able to outline some changes for the spring term to my Orchestra at our first rehearsal last Tuesday. I would like to share some of those changes today, in hopes that one or more of them may resonate with you or you may be compelled to consider how you can be better as well as we head into the spring.

First, many of you know that I have been creating audio guides for my students to use remotely in lieu of a conductor. To create these guides, I record all five parts of the string orchestra score using my electric violins. I have written and spoken about these guides extensively in the past. Even with the success of those guides, I have felt that I could probably do more. So, one of the changes I am making this term is, in addition to the full string orchestra audio guide with click track, I will be providing students with their individual part with click track. I am anxious to see how this impacts student performances. One or two students have already told me that there were sometimes rhythmic questions when they only heard the full ensemble audio guide.  The individual recorded parts will permit students to zero in on their part, associated styles, articulations, specific intonation, and other aspects of the piece. I will provide these at full tempo and at reduced tempi for further customized practice opportunities.

Another addition to my instructional model will be weekly videos outlining specific performance practices for the pieces we are learning and performing. Obviously, I gave this type of instruction through Zoom last semester. But, one would have had to dig through the Zoom recordings to find those specific instructions. This term, I will make a Youtube video for each voice in the Orchestra, outlining performance practice, dynamic considerations, tricky fingerings or passages, and potential use of essence for students who may not have the technical capabilities or confidence to fully perform a section or passage within the piece.

Another change or addition for second semester will be an increased live chamber experience for on-campus students during our Tuesday night rehearsal time. Due to the large size of our ensemble and the split nature of our rehearsals, I kept Tuesday nights as fully remote classes and group lessons. After some thoughtful conversations with our choral director, we decided to combine my string class and his choral class together in small chamber ensembles during our common Tuesday evening rehearsal time.  Singers will be masked with special singing masks and separated with plexiglass drum shields. The masked strings will double vocal parts. This will provide a small facsimile of the live ensemble rehearsal for small groups of students. We are hopeful that this opportunity to play and sing together will be meaningful for everyone.

Another change for this term will be a stronger plan for individualized performance and grading expectations. Last semester, I noticed a subset of the Orchestra did not complete all of the recorded performance expectations. Following my individual meetings with students, it became clear that some students felt overwhelmed as the semester went on. So, for this term, I will have a set of basic universal repertoire for everyone to learn and submit. This will include primarily Grade III and IV repertoire that is straightforward to learn and record. Then, there will be several additional, more challenging pieces which students can opt into playing. Following my individual meetings with students, I was pleased that about 75% of the orchestra indicated an interest in playing all of the repertoire. But, for the 25% that requested a lighter load, it is my pleasure to offer this alternative. Recording for a virtual ensemble experience can be stressful for some. I want to make sure that I honor these various levels of stress and the various amounts of time it may take for students of different playing levels to prepare a piece of music. This more individualized plan is a step in the right direction, I believe.

Finally, I intend to meet individually with each of my students more regularly this term. At the very least, I would like to have another 10 minute check-in at midterm and again at the end of the semester. As I indicated in my last post, these opportunities for personal interaction are invaluable.  

I believe each of these slight changes in my plan for the second semester will pay huge dividends.  What changes are you making as we begin the second semester? What worked during the first half of the year? What needs a little tweak? These are always important questions for us as teachers. I am certain that I will have new ideas as we finish this semester also. This is the beauty of teaching. We are never finished. We never have all the answers. I firmly believe that we can always do better. I invite you to consider these questions as well.

Here's to a great second semester and a great spring.

Peace. 
Scott

The 10-minute Check-In

At NCSSM, we have just completed the first week of the second semester. We continue to operate on a low density hybrid model during the pandemic. Students were remote this week but half of the student body will be returning to school today and stay for 5 weeks. At that point, they will go home and the other half of the student body will come to campus. Our first semester was quite successful from a health and program standpoint. I believe there was only one reported student case of Covid-19 throughout the fall among our student body and our administration is hopeful that, with our strong protocols, we can continue that positive trend.

Our first Orchestra meeting of the term was last Tuesday night. Class was largely administrative and organizational. While the students were fully remote for the week, I decided it would be a great idea to have a 10-minute check-in with each individual member of the Orchestra this week. I have about 40 members of the group right now and attrition was quite low from first to second semester. I count myself as fortunate.  I know the trends across the country have not been so positive. So, I created an asynchronous assignment for our remaining two classes of the week and scheduled individual meetings with each member of the orchestra during those class times. (This is one of the positive aspects of remote and hybrid teaching. I have such an incredible amount of control over the way I use my class time. This autonomy has proven to be quite beneficial in a number of cases. This week was certainly one of them.)

I have found these meetings to be wonderfully connective in our remote world. They have provided me an opportunity to ask students how they felt about first semester, their goals for second semester, ways that I can accommodate them individually, and also ask a little bit about their current stress and anxiety levels. 

I was quite pleased to learn that nearly everyone felt we did about the best we could during first semester. While not the same as actual Orchestra rehearsals, our virtual-orchestra format seemed to work for my students. They provided positive feedback on my approach, the tenor of the class meetings, musical instruction, and alternate assignments.  I asked each of them about their musical goals for second semester. I was pleased most had very lofty goals. Many seniors told me that the fall was full of stress for them due to college applications and they are looking forward to a stronger personal investment in Orchestra for the second semester. How great to hear that from them personally! 

I asked every one of them what I could do for them personally. Could I provide them more technique instruction? More musical challenges? Could I provide a more individualized plan for them? I really want each of them to know that I care about them personally and not just as one of a large group. Again, responses were generous. Most students felt that they are noticed and are cared for both musically and personally as part of the Orchestra. I was also pleased to learn that the orchestra community is strong. Many students told anecdotes of conversations between students after class about best practices for recording their part, practicing their part, and participation in this new orchestra format. This made me so happy. 

Perhaps the most important result of these meetings is simply personal connection. It was so great to share a smile with students whom I have grown to care for so deeply. I had the opportunity to ask about their winter break and J-term courses. Several students told me about their research and mentorship programs and other academic interests. I had the chance to ask seniors how their college application and acceptance process is going. Many juniors offered stories about research programs they have recently been accepted to. We also had a number of interesting conversations about the repertoire I selected for the fall and for the upcoming spring semester. Students offered feedback regarding the difficulty, diversity, and style of the pieces. It always makes me happy when students are thinking deeply about choices I make for the ensemble. This is clearly happening, even in the current remote and hybrid format of the NCSSM Orchestra.

In the end, these individual meetings will pay huge dividends for the musical community and musical product of our Orchestra this spring. I feel like each student was able to give me the feedback I need to be the best possible instructor at this time. I also truly believe that the personal connections that have developed between me and my students will will last well beyond their high school years. These are wonderful human beings who are on their way to great successes in many different fields. I am so honored to be their instructor and to provide them insights not only to orchestral music, but into a fulfilled life and career. My charge and mission is clear as their Orchestra director. I believe this to my core. And these individual meetings will only enhance the way I can connect with these students throughout the rest of the spring.

So, I encourage you to consider meeting with each of your students for a few minutes. Ask them how you have done so far this year. Trust me, it won't hurt. They appreciate your work. Ask them how you can serve them throughout the rest of this year. Again, the responses they will give you will be thoughtful and much deeper than you expect. Ask them where they would like to improve. My guess is they have a strong concept of their areas of strength and weakness both personally and musically. Finally, ask them about something unrelated to your class. Ask about college applications, current successes, recent disappointments, and anything else that they may care about. That note of personal connection in this time of separation might just be what they need today. 

Let's all keep going. You've got this.

Peace. 

Scott



Thursday, October 29, 2020

A Letter to My Orchestra Students

As we are winding down the month of October, in the midst of a pandemic and hybrid teaching and learning, I am compelled, this morning, to write a letter to my students. I certainly hope that they have a sense of how much I miss regular orchestra rehearsals and our music department environment. Hopefully, this letter will say a little bit of what I am feeling today.


Dear Orchestra Students, 


Hey folks. I wanted to drop you a note today just to get a few things off of my chest. Rehearsals are so fast and feel so distant as a result of masks, zoom, some folks in the room and others across the state of North Carolina and a general environment that is strange and different. This feels like the best forum to say a few words as we are closing in on the end of our first semester.


First, I know I probably don't have to say this, but I am sorry. I am sorry that we all find ourselves in this situation. I am sorry that I can't provide a more authentic orchestra experience for each of you. You seniors deserve better. There are so many strong leaders in the room and you deserve a real senior year orchestra experience. You juniors deserve better, too. You came to NCSSM with an expectation of a high-level orchestra experience and in many ways I just feel that I can't provide that. I know it's not my fault, but I want you to know that I am sorry.


I truly wish that we could play the great orchestral repertoire that I try to program every year. We are so handcuffed by the hybrid environment. I wish that each of you could feel the amazing wave of sound that washes over each of us during rehearsals and performances. I wish that you could get chills down the back of your neck as we make a great release or an amazing crescendo together. I wish that we could share smiles without masks in between our faces. I wish that you could have the experience of interacting with me and each other as thinking, caring, feeling musicians. And, I wish that we could share our common love for music, the arts, and expression together in an orchestra, the way we are used to doing.


I wish each of these things, but I am also aware that they probably aren't coming back this year. We are in a pattern that probably isn't going to change in the next few months and that makes me sad.


So, even though I am so sorry about these things. I want to be sure that you know what I am trying to do as part of the orchestra and our class each day. I want you to know that I will not give up. I want you to know that there are very clear goals for me and for us as an ensemble. I am truly trying to provide orchestral playing concepts and help you galvanize beliefs about string technique, orchestral playing, and the ensemble environment. I am truly trying to help you expand your knowledge of strings, repertoire, and orchestral playing. I am truly trying to keep class fun, informative, and interactive. I am trying to individualize and provide more advanced experiences for some and more rudimentary experiences for others.  I really don't want to stress you out. I really don't want to give you too much to do. I simply want to keep music as part of your life on a daily basis. I want to keep the beauty of orchestral music and the inspiration of playing your instrument as part of a large ensemble part of your experience at NCSSM. 


So, in short, please hang in there with me. It is my goal that we keep your hands on an instrument throughout your time at NCSSM. I truly hope that Orchestra provides you with a little break in the otherwise crazy busy schedule of NCSSM.  I truly hope that you find your friends and community in and around the orchestra. I truly hope that you find my smile and positive attitude to be an outpost in the midst of an otherwise uncertain and unstable world in which we live.


Please know how very much I care for each and every one of you. I care about your musical development. I care about your personal happiness. And I truly care about your time at NCSSM. 


I certainly know that creating virtual ensembles is not the same as a true orchestral experience. But, you are doing a great job with it. I am so pleased with your attitude and your commitment to the cause. Let's finish this semester strong. And we will continue to do all we can to lead and express through the arts and orchestra at NCSSM for the rest of this school year.


Peace,

S Laird