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February 1965 Booze in Music Education, An Open Letter to All of My Good Friends in the Music Industry, By John Paynter

Dear Music Dealers, Publishers, and Manufacturers:
   Does the above title strike you as being incongruous? I sincerely hope so! You have had an important part to play in our clinics and conventions with your displays and exhibits, with the clinicians you provide, and with your varied educational programs and many aids to the music teacher. But many of you persist in providing gallons of free booze to the music educator in “the name of hospitality and advertising. Gentlemen: Which of you has the courage to stop this expensive, wasteful, ill-directed, and often even degenerate practice?
   We encourage you to re-examine your company’s policies with regard to liquor parties. Each of you, in your own way, has put time and money into a sincere effort to establish your company name in keeping with the interests and standards of music education. I contend that you do more to break down this image in One wild “give-away” than you may do in a year to improve it. Why?
   The reasons for these parties you have given in the past are that they: (a) provide goodwill towards your consumers, (b) are a good means for advertising your product(s), and (c) present a better way to become personally acquainted with your customers. Gentlemen: none of these arguments holds much water.
   Let’s elaborate a bit. Goodwill is established over a long term period mostly with superior service and by providing a superior product at a fair price. If your efforts in this regard are so weak that getting some music teacher “bombed” is the only way you think you can prove your value in the music industry, you are certainly in a weak position. The best advertising has always come to a consumer thru music magazines, direct mail, and by complete satisfaction with a product, and never by boozing. Frankly most of the men you “entertain” are laughing at you behind your backs because of your seeming naivety in assuming that you can “win them over” with drinks. You are not getting to know the customer on a personal basis at a liquor party. In fact, you rarely get to speak to him at all above the din and revelry, and when you do, you find yourself talking to a man whose mind is often so fogged and confused that his true personality and intellect are largely obscured by an alcoholic haze.
   It is one thing to fail to accomplish your goals with liquor. It is quite another to do actual harm. As far as school music is concerned, our country is at another serious crossroad where administrators and others the nation over are evaluating its place in the modern curriculum. Thankfully, most of them are concluding that music must be a continuing integral part of the curriculum. But what about the “doubter”? If there were ever a time for music teachers and the music industry to represent everything that education means, it is now. This includes not only modern teaching methods and quality performances, but high moral standards that accompany these altruistic goals. If all school administrators and school board members were fully aware of some of the activities carried on at clinics, conventions, and state meetings, what would they think? What is worse, what would they do? Should we paint them the picture?
   Instead of teachers remaining after an evening concert for free discussion and exchange of views, there is a mad rush for the elevators to get to room so-and-so where, with a knowing wink, the music teacher has been invited (sometimes uninvited) to participate in some “hospitality. ” The hotel rocks only too often and too long into the early hours of the morning with raucous, coarse talk, sometimes with breaking glasses, sick conventioneers, and childish, uncontrolled behavior from OUR MUSIC TEACHERS. The next morning another fine group of youngsters is honored to perform; the group often comes at considerable expense and much effort. The audience straggles in; many directors never even arrive. Large numbers of those who do make it are bleary-eyed, unattentive, dull, listless, and even replete with the stench of last night’s partying.
   The day moves on, and by late afternoon most of the revelers are up and ready for the next round.   And so it goes for two, three, or four days. A sordid picture? Yes! A gross exaggeration? Not much. Were you there?
   The fact remains that too large a percentage of our music teachers are going home from these meetings with little or no appreciation for what went on. Most of them who have over-indulged are ashamed, and some vow never to do it again. Others look forward until the companies use their funds again to provide another opportunity for the same kind of merry-making. In the meantime, the teacher has lost a golden opportunity for self growth, for the gleaning of vital information for his job, and for the chance to discuss common problems with his colleagues with a clear and discerning mind, while the company providing the liquor has accomplished nothing for itself.
   Please do not tell me that here the consumer is mostly at fault. All you do is provide the opportunity –  “we do not force the teacher to take part.” This is true We also know there will always be men of weak character to take advantage of it. Nevertheless few teachers drink to excess if they have to pay for it. The all-important argument is that the absence of liquor will not reduce your sales or reduce the image of your company.
   No, it is YOU who must take the major blame. YOU are the firm that is on a treadmill, supposedly competing with another company for the goodwill and confidence of your customers. It is YOU who must learn that it does not pay to continue to perpetrate the fertile soil for reckless behavior, clouded heads, and stupid animalistic habits.
   Please put your entertainment money into third valve slides on school model instruments, fourth valves on all tubas, music with no printing errors, full scores, more flute parts, faster deliveries, bigger discounts to schools, research, or any of hundreds of more worthwhile activities for the music teacher. These are positive and powerful improvements that will pay off to you in more profits and prestige; these will accrue to the benefit of ail in music education.
   What is the role of booze in music education? It has none!  The liquor party is mostly ANTI-EDUCATION. Let’s eliminate the booze parties from all music conventions and clinics!

   John Paynter is director of bands at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois.