For as long as I can remember, I have thought of myself as a musician, and my goals have been driven by that self-awareness. I majored in music education at Messiah College, but at the time had no clear career goal in mind. What I have always known is that I love making music, studying music, being surrounded by music, and interacting with people who make music.
To achieve goals always implies a way of viewing oneself as well as possessing a set of skills, and I am keenly aware of the peculiar mixture of skills and perspectives that make up my personal musical identity. I could easily have allowed my unconventionality to distract me from the goal of filling my life with music.
Students in the music department—and I suspect in other departments as well—often believe that a particular skill set, personality, worldview, or life path is a necessary prerequisite for achieving a desired goal. Of course, there is some truth to this. However, I fear that people often have too narrow a concept of “goal” and of what is necessary to achieve their goals. I have found in my professional experience that good musicians—successful musicians, musicians who have reached their goals—have arrived at that point via quite different paths and often with quite different personalities and skill sets. Indeed, many—perhaps most—have found that their lives have taken them into unexpected circumstances and opportunities. The goals they set out to achieve have morphed into other possibilities.
I am glad to teach at Messiah College, glad to be able to do ethnomusicological research, glad to have earned my doctorate; but these are not the goals that please me most. I have so filled my life with music that I can comfortably claim to have “reached my goal.” If people fill their lives and surround their activities with the things that they love, they will have achieved their goals as well.
—Dwight W. Thomas ’70 is the director of Christian music and ethnomusicology at Messiah College.
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