I have been writing a blog each Sunday for over twenty weeks now. Still a novice in the blogging world, especially when I read some of the excellent work that I have discovered since starting to share my thoughts and concerns, and others have shared back. The reason for beginning this process was obvious to me, I needed to write, not just to help finish the doctorate, but to discipline my thinking and help to structure ideas into something that others would want to read. You have all been my test pilots and sounding boards, thank you.
Another writing task I volunteered for was to take over as editor of a newsletter for the National Association of Percussion Teachers here in the United Kingdom from the previous editor/secretary Lorne Pearcey. The Association is a collective of teachers and performers with many different experiences of teaching drums and percussion to all ages, from infant school pupils to conservatoire students and beyond.
The members of the Association share their good practice, news and thoughts through the newsletter, which is more like a magazine with adverts as well as articles, to others with similar interests. The Association was formed in the mid-1980s by a number of teachers from all parts of the country who wanted to be able to share ideas but also continue learning about new ideas and get expert advice in all things percussive.
One of the main problems for instrumental teachers is their isolation, I remember well going into schools, opening my room in the morning, seeing a stream of pupils, locking up and leaving at the end of the day without ever seeing another member of the school’s teaching staff. It is still a concern today, some efforts are being made in the UK to address the teaching standards of visiting instrumental tutors in schools, but a process of support for these staff that would help make them feel part of the department needs to be in place as well. At least with the support of an Association of teachers with similar experiences there is a point of contact and help, all be it by phone calls and e-mails rather than the face to face meeting which many would appreciate during their teaching career. To assist with this last part, the Association have organised Percussion Days, sharing information, watching and discussing excellent practice, meeting and talking with fellow professionals as well as dealing with the matters of electing officers, seeing the accounts and devising strategies for the following year that all constituted groups need to follow.
The Association is now at the point that many groups arrive at. There have been some changes to personnel over the years but the committee has been fairly constant from the outset. Now is the time that many of the original members want to take more of an observers role. Another concern is that it is not only these mainly voluntary organisations that are approaching this time of change, many businesses have a very experienced but aging workforce that are approaching retirement with little hope of continuity for the future. One example of this is the years of training and gathering experience it takes to become an engineer in manufacturing. This is not a vocation that many people want to follow with long hours, low pay, years of commitment, just like becoming a musician really.
It is time for the new, younger generation to appreciate how they have benefited from these groups and jobs and take on the responsibility for carrying the legacy forward. Difficult for some to understand with what seem to be old processes in place, be it a printed magazine or a large piece of complex machinery. We are slowly moving to an online/digital age, if you believe all the promotion and e-everything reports in the news we are there already, but we are not and I do not see how we ever will be.
We still need to eat and so we need food that is manufactured, unless we all have much more time and there is a new seven-day-a-week cook-at-home culture evolving. We download everything now is again a fallacy, recent reports by the BPI show that they measure the singles chart by downloads, but the album chart is still significantly based on sales of manufactured CDs. E-book sales growth is starting to level off according to the Pew Research Centre survey in America and sales of hardbacks are holding up well. Online shopping is steadily growing but this does not mean that e-takes over the world, just that new ways to access products and services will be used alongside more traditional methods.
This new editor, your author, is the new generation (although older than Lorne and has recently become a granddad) and is part of the thousands of people that give their time, energy and skills to others each week. To me it is an important element in being part of your community, whether it be a local or professional one. I was helped by many volunteers during my youth; coaches, teachers, mentors and colleagues, who all freely gave their time and expertise to help me to be a more proficient athlete or musician or artist or photographer or dancer or whatever else I tried.
If you have not tried volunteering yet I would recommend it. I have met and become friends with many people who, in the normal course of events I would never have come into contact with. I have been inspired by the energy and dedication of many, I have held the offices of Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, Development, Child Welfare, Cook and many more roles that have no official title (and at one time I was all these simultaneously until a new generation stepped forward to help). It could be you join a similar interest group like The National Association of Percussion Teachers or your local junior sports club or music society or bridge club or… The rewards are many and I hope you have a successful year.
If you are interested in finding out more information about NAPT, the secretary is Mr. Will Sivier who can be contacted by e-mail; firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested in volunteering for a group in your community, have a look what is happening near you and see which one appeals most. In the most part it does not matter what your skills are, voluntary groups always need new members to help ease the load.
So why give it away and why Blog? It is to share, to comment, to teach myself, to follow others, to help others, to get involved and to give me some thinking time each week. I should have started this years ago.