By Marc Taylor
This past year has been difficult for most everybody in one way or another. For music teachers it has been quite challenging. For families that have lost loved ones it has been devastating.
Personally, I haven’t had a desire to dwell on or rehash the negative aspects of this period of time. I do feel that it is critical that we acknowledge and process those difficulties, challenges, and devastations that we’ve experienced; they hold a very special place in our heart and being. However, deciding what we are going to do with those experiences in moving forward is even more important. These are the things that make or break us; that mold us into what we will be. And we have a choice in how we respond and who we become.
I have actually been very fortunate during the pandemic. Yes, my concert was cancelled the day before it was supposed to happen, my tour to NYC was cancelled, and we went to virtual learning like everyone else. My students struggled to make sense of things and all seniors were sorely disappointed in missing out on all the traditional celebrations and ceremonies. There were a few that became depressed and despondent but most finally came to a place of acceptance and began to make the best of it with faith and hope in the future. And that is where the magic began.
We are all dealt a hand of cards and our success comes in how we deal with them. Most of these students found a new beginning through the acceptance of what was to them a new “hand of cards.” They found ways to be innovative, to be happy, to enjoy life, and to love each other in spite of the restrictions and hardships. I hope that in some way I was an inspiration to them whether through teaching or by example. As someone who four years ago experienced Stage IV cancer that metastasized to the liver (and the medical journey that went with it where my life was in the balance) I know something of devastation, acceptance, making the best of it, and moving forward with hope and faith. That was a new beginning for me then, and now every time that I return from a clean CT scan I experience other little new beginnings along the way.
So, together, my students and I came up with new ways of learning, making music, collaborating, and enriching each other’s lives. We have found common goals on which to focus that kept us grounded in learning and improving both in knowledge and performance. We were very fortunate in my state to be able to resume in-person learning this school year with limited public performance (albeit distanced with all the protocols in place). Gratitude for what we were able to do and not focusing on what we couldn’t do was also a major factor in shaping the attitudes and outlook of my students. The wonderful thing about the trials that we face in life is that the resilience we exhibit allows us to experience these new beginnings. In order for us to be victorious and experience growth we must not allow ourselves to succumb to darkness and negativity.
And now one year later, having had the resilience to see this whole experience through – with conviction and determination – we now see the light at the end of the tunnel. And truly another new beginning is happening as the season of spring is upon us, the vaccines are rolling out, cases are trending down, restrictions are starting to ease, and we have just had our ACDA national conference where we have all shared our minds, voices, and souls together in unity, diversity, and inclusion. We now look forward to the future together. And it is this collective thought and action in which we love and support one another that will see us through and where we will embark on our next New Beginning.
Marc Taylor is the choral director at Copper Hills High School in West Jordan, Utah.