by Jeffrey Carter
My comments from last week’s Honors Convocation, at which we recognized graduating students from the Department of Music:
You stand on the cusp of new beginnings . . . of possibility . . . of re-creation.
You are poised to leave the structure and rigor and occasional drama of higher education, and to enter the tough world of making your own way.
We have nurtured you these years, and we remain steadfast in our desire to be of counsel . . . mentors along the path . . . but our role changes now to that of cheerleaders and sometimes to that of wise older voice. And writers of reference letters. Don’t ever be shy in asking us to write on your behalf!
As you enter the world of learn-ed scholars and practicing musicians . . . of course, many of you are practicing musicians already, but now you will have credentials too . . . as you enter this world, here are a few thoughts to take along the way:
1. Last year, the great conductor Riccardo Muti gave a commencement address at a school in Chicago where he is Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. I paraphrase his concluding thoughts. “What diplomacy can’t do, music creates. What words cannot do, music communicates. That’s the reason you, friends, have a mission. You have embraced culture. You must use culture . . . music . . . to bring people together.
The world today is extremely problematic. Blood is everywhere. People don’t seem to understand each other. We are all so damn polarized. But I can tell you as I conclude that you, young and cultivated people, through your world of music, can help your nation and the world become better.
2. Some practical advice: you can never stop practicing. Bob Chamberlin posted something on Facebook earlier this semester, and I passed it along to the faculty as well. “When you are not practicing, remember, someone somewhere IS practicing, and when you meet him, he will win.” This applies to auditions, to job interviews, to gigs, to your own growth as musicians and people.
This applies to each of us . . . faculty included. We must never stop honing our craft, because when we do, someone who thirstier and hungrier will slip in and take our place.
3. The notes on the page are only the skeleton. Music is what happens between those little black dots. If you take this to heart, what you will discover decades from now is that you have lived and loved and lingered over what truly matters. Live in the moment. Feel what happens between the dots. And know that the journey is as important as the destination.
4. This final word from me: at the end of the day, it’s all about the people. Be nice to others. Share your lunch. Pay it forward. As much as practice is often solitary, we live our lives with others, and THEY matter. Kindness counts. So does doing things in such a way that others don’t have to clean up your messes. Keep a child’s faith and focus, but think and act as an adult.
And life truly is about others . . . about the people. Live your life as if in community with others, knowing that we are all connected.
We have done our part, and we now send you on your way with our good hopes and high expectations. We want to hear of your success, so please do stay in touch!
Go now . . . and live the life you have dreamed.
Graduates, we commend you, we salute you, and we say Godspeed.