It seems that Western society as a whole is going through a period of devaluation of everything that does not feed directly into the economic machine. It’s happening in many areas. For example, I’m a member of a Masonic Lodge in Indianapolis as well as the Scottish Rite. My lodge is meant to be an example of Masonic restoration and progressive values. However, aside from a single hymn that is sung for one particular ritual, there is no music in this lodge. The dearth of music in blue-lodge Masonry is apparently common. Where one Masonic temples were filled with the sounds of instruments and singing, now music is a side bar or special event. I’ve heard from a friend in Scotland that his lodge does sing a processional. There is music in the Scottish Rite, but it is in decline. I joined the chorus because I asked around some of the head 33rd-degree officers for information about the music programme, and they didn’t even know who the chorus director was!
I use this example for perspective: music is not perceived to be as vital to community life as it once was. If a community were to re-discover the social value of every day music — not factory music as is heard on the radio, but community-made music — we may see a resurgence in education as well as core humanitarian values. What might be the modern version of going down the pub for a sing, to hear a local musician, to relish the sounds WITH music makers and sing along. Is it too late to change people’s understanding away from consuming art to being art — away from being spoon-fed a pre-fab industry to digging into the feast with their own knife and fork and being part of it, no-matter how amateurish they are?
A small town might actually be a good place to start. Win the backing of a mayor or town council and start some community activities in which amateur music making is heralded as a thing that helps build a healthy neighbourhood. A stronger music community will create more opportunities to teach and perform for all.
What are your thoughts on strategies for building a stronger amateur music community?