Getting out of our comfort zones

Dean Robert L. Annis urges the Westminster community to learn from our past and look to the future
Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Delivering his 20th Westminster Opening Convocation address, Westminster Choir College Dean and Director Robert Annis recalled speeches that involved props ranging from coffee cans to Barbie dolls and performances that included his first public improvisation.

“More than once over the years I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone, despite the warmth and nurturing that we all feel on this occasion,” he said.  “Convocation gives us a chance to come together as a community — a community whose life and breath are centered on the making of music.”

He referred to former Westminster Dean Charles Schisler’s dissertation on the history of Westminster Choir College that described Westminster’s curriculum as combining “the philosophies of rational humanism and cognitive pluralism to emphasize the technical competence and musical sensitivity of student musicians while fostering their understanding of the liberal arts and the role of music in intellectual and cultural life.”

“So let’s assume for the moment that this concept is our comfort zone,” Annis continued. “With that in mind — the question is — how do our community values and traditions stay relevant in the 21st century, because our comfort zone can easily become its own bubble or silo. As musicians we know first hand that a sensational performance today does not guarantee a sensational performance again tomorrow. For an organization or school this translates into the fact that a successful past does not guarantee a secure future of continued glory. To remain vital we must function as an energized and interactive entity meeting tomorrow’s needs. We must learn from our past, but we also must look ahead. As we all go through this journey, I ask you to challenge yourself to grow and venture outside of your comfort zone.”

“Give the world community what it needs,” he said to the students.  “You can make the arts a lifeblood part of your community. Embrace and rejoice in the journey Westminster offers to you.”

He also encouraged the faculty to “think innovatively, embracing what we hold true to the musical training and life experiences found at Westminster. But think creatively and entrepreneurially to evolve, enhance, and mold a curriculum and performance experience that is vital and relevant to the artistic and educational development of our 21st century young musicians.”

Read a transcript of Robert Annis’ 2013 Opening Convocation address.

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