Rich started writing for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin as music critic for the symphony and opera seasons. Originally from Granite City, IL, he graduated from Simpson College with a degree in music education. In 1984 he received his MA in Music ...
Rich started writing for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin as music critic for the symphony and opera seasons. Originally from Granite City, IL, he graduated from Simpson College with a degree in music education. In 1984 he received his MA in Music Education from Truman State. Now retired, Rich enjoyed reading, writing music and short essays. He is the director of Kirksville Community Chorus.
MCKNOTES BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
I’m not one to make a list of resolutions for the New Year. I never have been. If I can learn to write the correct year on my checks, that’s enough for me to handle in a timely manner. After the dust has settled and I’ve some time to consider possibilities, there’s nothing wrong with then thinking about what I might do to improve or expand my life. I don’t limit that to the beginning of a year though. My life plans are made according to an academic calendar, so the beginning of a new year for me starts in September. I think of my year in terms of semesters, and each semester offers a chance at innovation and reexamination. I’ve been on an academic calendar because I went from being a student to teaching, so it is natural for me to start my year with the fall semester, treating January as a chance for nuance.
Education is and always has been extremely important to me. I have some abilities that came to me pretty naturally, but also required some effort from me in order to develop whatever abilities I have been blessed with. In addition to the education I got in school, I also received education from my time in church. The Bible teaches us by using parables, and I was influenced by the parable of the talents. It is clear to me that talents are to be cultivated so that they can develop and multiply. The parable, of course, refers to talents as a monetary unit, but in a broader sense, talents are equal to resources.
My father used to jokingly say that I should cultivate my voice, as in “plow it under.” As I said, this was just a laugh line, and I had support from my family regarding my music. It’s true, however, that some ventures in which people find themselves should probably be let go. When I reached the appropriate age, I was taken to try out for little league baseball. My first time at bat, the pitcher threw a curve ball. I ducked right into it and it hit me squarely on my lips, knocking me out and chipping my front tooth. My mother reacted with her usual hysteria. I’m sure my father was disappointed, but it was clear to everyone that this was probably not my forte.
In junior high school, I went out for basketball. Fortunately, I was uninjured in my short lived attempt to join that team, with the possible exception of my bruised ego. The coach made it clear, however, that it would not be to his or my advantage to waste my time learning the skills necessary to do more than warm the bench.
I do have a vision problem, and these efforts at participation in sports clarified the fact that my visual perception did not help my endeavor to “make the team.” None of this was much of a surprise to me. I knew, already, that I had some abilities, but playing at sports was clearly not a part of my makeup.
The good news is that my path to a meaningful contribution became more and more obvious. My musical abilities paved the way in the direction of more concentrated study and a way to turn my music from an avocation into a vocation. This is something I do not regret. I’ve had some wonderful successes, and even at this ever advancing age, I continue to enjoy achievements that are most rewarding.
I aimed my music education at teaching others rather than performance. I don’t regret that either. I am still in touch with students I nudged into careers that have far exceeded my own efforts. I’m grateful for these continued relationships and proud that I have had some part in leading younger and talented individuals in a direction to earn their own rewards.
Recently I had a conversation with the parent of a young person who approaches the point when commitment to a direction for development nears. In this case, it seems clear that rushing into a college just might not be the best option. This young person shows exceptional signs of ability in areas which may not require college classrooms for further development. That is not to say that further training is unnecessary. It is not even an indication that a college education will never be something this student should pursue. It simply means that, at this point, there may be other more feasible directions for this particular student.
More and more, teachers of young children realize that not all children develop at the same rate. Children should have the right and the support to be able to go to college, if that’s what is indicated by the abilities or talents they possess. At the same time, there is no reason why a student should not be able to find other training that better leads them to a successful and fulfilling future.
We’re just not all the same. Frankly, that’s a good thing, in my view. The most important thing to remember about that is that we’re not on any other person’s time table. I’m always impressed by elderly people who are still expanding their minds and growing. I realize that I am getting on in years. I’m not sure when I will claim the “elderly” title, but my hope is that it will reflect only my years, and not a lack of activity.
When my generation was young, everybody seemed to expect us to choose one single avenue to pursue. Things have changed since then. I have read various reports that suggest how many major life changes we might go through in a normal life span. I’m not fond of studies. They place on us expectations that may not fit our personal plans. I want to keep learning, expanding, growing and most importantly, enjoying life. I don’t have to conform to any other person’s idea of what is the right way to live
I hope I can encourage the young people I know to be themselves and not to be held back by convention. Neither should they be intimidated by expectations. We all just have to be the best we can be, and that’s enough. I don’t know what’s left for me to do in my life. It’s unlikely that I’ll take on any new career paths, but I can certainly enjoy dabbling in new hobbies and use what creativity I have to explore areas that interest me. That’s my plan. It may not be right for anyone else. I recently bought a version of the photoshop software and have done some tinkering with photo alterations. I don’t expect to win any prizes, but it’s fun.
My belated resolution is to keep on keeping on. I admit that I don’t spring out of bed in the morning doing cartwheels down the hall, but I never did. My parents are gone now, and I have little family left that keeps track of what I do to any great extent. That’s O.K. with me. If I’m tired, I can sleep in. In fact, I can sleep around the clock if I like, but I don’t think I’d much enjoy that kind of existence. The point is, I answer to no one but myself, and I’ve always found that I’m demanding enough.
If any young people read my blog, I would only say, “Aim high.” If you miss your mark, you can still do pretty well. Aim high, dream big and demand that you be the best you can be. Resolutions can come at any time in one’s life. Colossal announcements about “New Year’s Resolutions” may have a synthetic feel. It’s not the resolution that is most important, but the commitment to that decision that helps us reach new heights and broaden horizons.