2015 Spring Newsletter

Message from the Chair

Meredith BrammeierWe all face the challenge of finding balance in our lives. It is a perpetual quest and affects almost all elements of our professional and personal worlds. One of the balancing acts concerns our use of technology — the demand to be efficient yet the need to be human. This can prove difficult not only for us individually, but also collectively, and a public university is an especially prominent arena for this clash of priorities and values.

Technology has produced wonders that enhance our access to music, its pedagogy and its creation. The pursuit of efficiency, however, leads to mixed results, since efficiency often lies in the eye of the beholder. (“Do you really need all of those violins in your symphony, Mr. Beethoven? Aren’t they just duplicating each other?”) In this regard, I tend to agree with Aldous Huxley, who said, “The worst enemy of life, freedom and the common decencies is total anarchy; their second worst enemy is total efficiency.” I would add a third enemy: isolation. When we let social media substitute for in-person contact, the resulting isolation is an unfortunate byproduct of our wired, efficient world. This isolation clashes not only with our need to be human, but also with our need to grow as humans. Fortunately, music and its study are wonderful antidotes to this bane of modern life.

When we make, listen to and talk about music together, the bonds of shared experience can literally inform our humanity. These interactions at Cal Poly take place in a world where people know our names, celebrate our successes, and offer comfort for our setbacks. It is a place of hard work, passion, dedication — and something else, something almost mystical. As the great wizard Dumbledore once said at Hogwarts, “Ah, music … a magic beyond all we do here!”

W. Terrence Spiller, Chair