One of the fun parts of my job is helping to update the Facebook page for the magazine (www.facebook.com/instmag). Sometimes when the workload is light and my desk is empty, I update it several times in a week. In the busier times the page might go without an update for a week or so. When the pages sits idle for too long, Facebook helpfully suggests that it is time to post something. Other messages remind me that short updates often get the best response.
The task of finding helpful, interesting information for the page frequently involves the same challenges as assembling a magazine each month. We have a broad readership of musicians, from high school students reading their director’s copy of the magazine to veteran conductors who are well-established in the field. Not every article strikes a chord with every reader, and the same is true with posts online.
The Facebook page does allow us to highlight some of the greatest ideas and leaders in the industry. With new directors entering the field each year, there are many people who know Frederick Fennell or John Paynter only as a name they have seen in print. The giants of the past still have something vital to say to teachers today. Music education changes a little bit each year, but ultimately, the tenets of good music and good teaching remain largely unchanged. I have found that I can almost point at an old article by Francis McBeth with my eyes closed and find a quote that is both wise and hilarious to share with our Facebook fans.
The page also gives an opportunity to highlight articles and ideas in the current magazine. In working on a roundtable on marching contests conducted by Anthony Pursell, I was particularly struck by a quote by Heidi Sarver of the University of Delaware. I decided to put it up on our Facebook page one Tuesday afternoon to make sure that readers did not miss it when their magazines arrived a week later. The response was astonishing.
“Some students would never get through school if it had not been for band. Band was their safe place. Band was their home. Band made everything else tolerable. I look at my current band, and I know there are students in it who succeeded in academics because band got them through the tough times.” – Heidi Sarver, May 2013
The comments and likes for the post began pouring in that afternoon and continued over the next several days. One commenter took the time to thank all of her past directors. Another noted that music was the only reason he had graduated high school; now, over 35 years later, he is still playing in a community band led by his former director.
The Sarver quote also was shared by 147 different people and organizations including high school band pages, companies in the music industry, and people who have not picked up a horn in decades. It quickly became the most popular post in the history of the page. I started to daydream that the quote would become an internet phenomenon to rival famous cat videos and songs by Korean rappers. The post did not reach that level of fame, but in the end more than 26,000 people read it, far more than would have seen it deep in an article on marching band.
In the weeks since the post, I have thought about why it received such a strong response. Music connects us all. For students, especially teenagers who are struggling to find their place in the world, music brings together people with different experiences and interests and links them together through a common purpose. In a time of ubiquitous technology, we think we are more connected than ever. The technology allows communication but keeps us at a certain distance. Music brings us together and give us purpose. Perhaps that is why we never leave our earliest music experiences behind.