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Musical Chairs and Other Character Indicators

Musical Chairs and Other Character Indicators

Isn’t it a great thing that no individual, group or entity has a monopoly on music? Sure, there still exist many obstacles to prevent exposure to the full range of musical forms and performers. But even when one is isolated by geographical, economic, social or cultural barriers, nothing can stop the music that dances around in our individual heads. Our minds are, indeed, where the art form originates.

When it comes to classifying and rating music, I tend to agree with the often quoted words of Duke Ellington, “There are only two types of music, good music and bad music.” While Ellington may have been referring to textual standards of a particular musical work, he could just as easily have been talking about the work’s redeeming social value. It’s therefore a shame that a universally appreciated art form can be hijacked by materialistic mercenaries and cause so much trouble. This unfortunate contemporary theft has unfolded in many communities around the world, but especially among young, naïve listeners who embrace not only the music, but destructive lifestyles associated with a particular genre.

Serious research is needed to get at these problems. In our cover story, by assistant editor Kendra Hamilton, we present Dr. William C. Banfield, a musician, composer, scholar extraordinaire and holder of an endowed chair in music at St. Thomas University in Minnesota. This interdisciplinary scholar exemplifies the rigor and persistence needed to take on the tough and complicated issues associated with the role that music plays in today’s society. His endowed chair in music is indeed being put to good use.

Senior writer Ronald Roach’s story about the highly successful LEAD Program affirms that the role of outreach and early intervention remains absolutely critical in diversifying the upper tiers of American society. Whether these types of early intervention programs can survive the long arm of the Michigan decision looms very large on the litigation landscape.

Let me close by sharing with you an incident that happened during one of the early years of this publication. I took two of my young Black male staffers and my then 15-year-old son to a meeting of the 1-A College Football Association and the College Football Writers Association. During their meeting all of the coaches had to pass through a narrow corridor where my motley crew was standing. Two coaches bothered to stop by and speak to us. One was Joe Paterno, who had earned a spot on one of our covers because of a scholarship program he’d personally set up for minority students at Penn State. The other was Tyrone Willingham, who not only took the time to get to know us but offered encouraging words of advice to my son.

For me those two encounters said more about these men than their win/loss records could ever say.  And character should still matter. 

Frank L. Matthews

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