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On the Shoulders of Giants

James M. Rohner and Ann Rohner Callis | August 2015

    We have had such fun putting together this 70th Anniversary issue. It has given us a chance to take stock of our long history, reconnect with old friends, and remember the great people who helped build music education and this magazine in the post-World War II period.
    While some anniversaries can drown in self-congratulation and nostalgia, we wanted to make sure that the bulk of this issue contained new material. We invited a distinguished group of teachers to write essays on any topic and were amazed by how many people took time to help. From Frank Ticheli’s recollection of a classmate who convinced him not to quit composing to Terry Austin’s memories of a concert that changed his life, the Anniversary Essays provide a wealth of wisdom from some of the best in the business.
    Working on this issue also reminded us of the many giants who made incomparable contributions to the development of music education. It is easy to forget that the repertoire for concert band remained somewhat meager until a wave of innovative new composers arrived in the 1950s and 1960s. On page 54 you can see how many classic band works were first reviewed in our pages (mostly by the legendary John Paynter). The list of composing luminaries in these early reviews includes Erickson, Grundman, Hanson, Reed, and Chance, among many others. They built a musical foundation that continues to support and inspire us today.
    We also surveyed a number of respected teachers who have made significant contributions to our pages over the years. We asked questions that probed into the lessons they had learned as teachers. When we inquired about their most memorable former student, almost everybody had a touching story to tell. These answers reminded us that we do not always know the good our words and deeds can have on others. Often it is the stray compliment or word of encouragement that makes all the difference.
    Any look back at the history of The Instrumentalist would not be complete without recognizing two men who steered our ship for many years. Our grandfather, Traugott Rohner, launched the first issue of the magazine in September 1946 with a bright magenta cover and big dreams for his new enterprise. He placed a bet on his new dream by putting a second mortgage on his home. An immigrant from Switzerland in the early part of the 20th century, Traugott Rohner achieved the American dream at every stage of his life as a teacher, musician, inventor, and publisher.
    Our father, James T. Rohner, led the magazine as publisher for 40 years with lawyerly determination and attention to detail. Although he scrutinizes the magazine with a more forgiving eye since passing the baton to us, we never have to wonder what he thinks about our efforts. As young editors, the worst markings we ever received on our manuscripts were “yukko editing” or even the dreaded “just start over” in our father’s unmistakable scrawl. He made everybody work harder, striving for better articles and covers because he believed that busy directors deserved our very best.
    There is no way to thank properly all of the authors, advertisers, and readers who have made the magazine special over the years. We are never less than humbled by your support. Every day, in ways large and small, music education changes lives.

James M. Rohner
Ann Rohner Callis