I spent two days in the car driving from Chicago to Rhode Island trying to come up with a snappy, witty, informative post Midwest Clinic blog. For two days, I struggled with what to write about my experiences at the conference. The struggle didn’t come from a completely bad place, but from a “Why do I disrupt the end of my semester to trek 1000 miles to a conference?” place.
I drive, round trip about 1100 miles. I hate flying but I will do it when I guest conduct, but I drive so I can spend a few days in Indiana, with my sister and her family before or after the conference, and we have a mini Christmas. That is my buffer between the end of semester and juries. Wednesday morning, I make the short trip to Chicago and jump right in.
Every year I normally plot out my session and concert time (and routinely ignore it), but I didn’t this year. That put me in a spot when I was asked to be a last-minute replacement guest on Mark Connor’s Midwest Preview Podcast. One of the first questions he asked was about session I wanted to attend. I quickly put the Midwest app to good use though. But there was once session I knew I wanted to attend. Scott Watson and Jenny Neff were presenting a session on Skyping with composers. What a great session, and a short clip of my band was included in the presentation. Does that mean I can now say my band played at Midwest? Excellent…
Aside from that I had no plan of attack as I normally did. Scott and Jenny’s session ended and I went to the exhibit hall, and within about ten minutes I felt completely conferenced out. I knew it would happen, but honestly thought I would get through the first day. While I love what I do, there is a lot wrong with our profession, and in some ways, this is amplified in Chicago. The rest of Wednesday was a little rough and I bowed out after a concert and went to my hotel room to get away from it. And then dinner made me remember why I travel to Chicago every year. What is hopefully turning in to a yearly dinner with composer/teacher friends (this was year two), made everything turn back in a more positive way. It was great to surround myself with wonderful musicians and relax. We talked about music, and we talked about penguin glasses.
Thursday and Friday were excellent days! Spending time at meetings and working the booth for the National Band Association got me meeting new people and hearing about exciting things happening across the country.
To me the most important thing at Midwest in interacting with people; connecting with former students and colleagues, seeing old friends, and meeting new people. Every year I drive out of Chicago having met some incredible people. My Wednesday Midwest crash was quickly replaced with the knowledge that I am surrounded by some great musicians that push me to be better at what I do, and are there when I need a little propping up when things get overwhelming.
Don’t get me wrong, I still feel like our profession has a lot of issues that need to be fixed, but I feel confident that those people are out there, if they are given a chance to shine. College people need to spend more time in the trenches with k-12 teachers, and not just at the premier schools. When is the last time you visited a school that struggles to even have complete instrumentation? When is the last time you visited a school where they met maybe once or twice a week? We aren’t doing our students any favors by sheltering ourselves from this reality, and we aren’t preparing our students for what is to come.
Did you leave Midwest patting yourself on the back for what you do, or did you leave Midwest, seeing your faults and longing to be better at what you do. I hope the latter. Did you leave Midwest chock full of excuses as to why your band can never be “that” good, or did you leave Midwest with some new tools to make your ensemble “that” good. Please don’t get me started on what good is…
Enjoy your break and get yourself ready to go right back at it with more energy next week or whenever you start back up for 2018. Cheers and Happy New Year!
I hope you have at least one picture like this from your time at Midwest!