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A (Creative) Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste!

One of the most well-known advertising campaign slogans ever developed for an organization or association was created by the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) in 1972. You’ve heard it many times: “A Mind Is A Terrible T ing To Waste!” T rough the years this iconic public service campaign has garnered over 2.2 billion dollars in donations and has helped to graduate more than 350,000 minority students from 43 UNCF member colleges and universities. ( And, while those statistics are impressive, there are two less-dazzling facts that I would like to draw your attention to: 1) the UNCF campaign slogan has remained unchanged for nearly four decades, and 2) the slogan has become so well known it is arguably a part of the American vernacu- lar. So why do I bring this up? I’ll circle back to this question momentarily.

When I learned recently that our theme for this journal was “the creative mind,” I was personally and professionally thrilled. In my six years serving the IMEA Board as the coordinator of All-State Music Composition Contest, I have had an amazing front-row balcony seat to bear witness to the vast creative talents of our Illinois student composers. T ese student musicians–arguably the most invested in tapping their independent and authentic creative minds–are living proof that we as music educators off er students an incredible opportunity to develop their creativity.

How can we, then, learn from the success of the UNCF national ad campaign that has been bearing fruit for that organiza- tion for nearly forty years? First, we must continue to celebrate and focus on the core values of a music education that are unique to the arts as a discipline. T ese core values are what remain “unchanged” for us as educators. We must highlight, for all constituents, the unique and un- changing attributes that music learning off ers our students. And, I would assert, our ability as music teachers nurture


the creative mind is certainly one of the unchanging qualities of our curricula.

Secondly, we need to become a part of the “vernacular.” For us, this translates directly to advocacy. Even though we may feel as if we are repeating the same advocacy statements year after year, it is important to remember that each year we see new students, new parents, new administrators and new community leaders. T e only way our message will become a part of the corporate education vernacular is if we stay on message about the way in which the arts–in their own unique and authentic way–nurture and develop the creative mind.

All-State Composition Contest

Each fall I try and make it a point to visit each of our school’s performance classes and spend just a few minutes of the rehearsal introducing and explaining the IMEA All-State Composition Contest. Why? Because I, and my colleagues, are confi dent that this short mention of the topic is going to bring several new composers out of the woodwork. It never fails. In recent years, on the day I talked about the contest in front of my performance students, I have had emails with attached composition fi les in my in- box before I could even leave for home. Students, who had been composing over the summer (unbeknownst to me) had rushed home and sent me a few fi les in hopes I would share a reaction.

T e bottom line is that we can, as teachers in this arena, support and encourage the creative composition process in our band, choir and orchestra students. At the very least, please take a few moments as the school year begins to announce the composition contest in your perfor- mance classes, and explain to students the ten diff erent categories and how they may submit their music. As I have written before, you may be surprised when the third chair cellist, the seventh

chair clarinetist, or the alto who has been hiding in the back row of the choir risers knocks on your offi ce door the next day and hands you a CD of several compositions he/she has been working on at home in complete isolation.

Make Music/Finale to Sponsor the 2011 All-State Composition Contest

I am extremely pleased to announce the continued partnership between Make Music® and the Secondary General Music All-State Music Composition Contest. For the 2011 contest, our high school music students may look forward to wonderful prizes; fi rst place winners in each of the ten Composition Contest categories will each receive a copy of the most recent Finale® composition software.

T is partnership off ers an incredible incentive for our students to enter their compositions in our annual contest!

All-State Composers Showcase Concert Features eighth blackbird

T e All-State Composers Showcase Concert will be held on T ursday after- noon at 3:00 p.m. in the Civic Center T eatre. T is will be my sixth and fi nal

Illinois Music Educator | Volume 72 Number 1

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