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Final Convocation Speech

May 20, 2016

It is my good fortune to have the honor to address you, for the fifth and sadly, final time as dean of this grand School of Music. Like these seniors, I am, in a way, graduating, and this is my opportunity to see these events through the eyes of a senior. There is some symmetry to the fact that it took 5 years for me to complete my own undergraduate degree, (more years, in fact, that it took for my masters and doctorate combined), and that I have once again spent 5 years in music school. These have been five good years, and like the other seniors are realizing, it seems like time to celebrate. Graduation, or another semester accomplished, could be a time to look back at all that you have accomplished. It could be time to give yourself a good pat on the back for all that you have done. Celebratory occasions are for that purpose—the celebration of accomplishment and in this case your accomplishment.

Yet in a larger way, this is also the opportunity to pause and realize, we didn’t do this alone. Times of celebration often disguise opportunities to give thanks. Did you accomplish this on your own? Of course not. No one does. But who to thank? What would happen if we all stopped for just a moment and thought, “Who do I thank?” Go Ahead. I’ll wait. I’m serious. Take a moment and think who to thank.

Now I would imagine Mom and Dad immediately pop to mind. Good. They should. Parental sacrifice for the good of their kids is legendary, and often thankless so it is good they come to mind. I remember giving my father a coffee cup that said, “The old man is usually right but by the time you figure that out, you have kids of your own who think you are usually wrong.” True, that.

I’ll bet next came your teachers. Good. You are right again. These are the people who have helped you most to grow into who you now are. They changed you—for better and for good and you will quickly realize that the professors you had here are the best out there. They have set a high standard for the future professors you will have and that will be no easy hurdle for those professors to clear. You’ve thought thanks, now lets show thanks. How about a round of applause for your teachers? And I hope you will find other ways to say thanks before your leave for the summer or the rest of your life. A round of applause is small recompense for all they have done.

Now who? How about the staff? The office staff managed your every need? You lived in a beautiful space all these years. Have you thanked Randy or the grounds crew or the facilities staff lately? How about the Ladies of Café Allegro? (You folks are gonna miss that coffee shop next year when move it into the president’s office;). You see, there are a lot of people to thank and you don’t have much time left here. Better get to it.

So there you have it- -the only graduation speech with a homework assignment. Give thanks. A lot. Before you go. Some of these folks you may never meet again in this lifetime.

I have been blessed to be your dean. I can look you in the eye and say that I did my best. Every action I took, without exception, were the actions I thought necessary to give you the most extraordinary education possible. I’ll ask forgiveness for the things you blame me for and I’ll ask you to pay forward the things you appreciated. And I will say thanks to all who made these things possible.

Throughout my time in this school, I have reminded you of your obligation to make the world a better place with your talent. Just one note changes the world. For better and for good.

 

For Good (from Wicked)

I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you…
Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good

It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You’ll be with me Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend…
Like a ship blown from its mooring By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a skybird In a distant wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good

And just to clear the air I ask forgiveness
For the things I’ve done, you blame me for

But then, I guess we know There’s blame to share

And none of it seems to matter anymore

Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes the sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
 
Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a bird
In the wood
 


I do believe I have been
Changed for the better

And because I knew you
I have been changed for good

 

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