Nineteen years ago I was in a terrible car accident that resulted in me losing my right arm; I was right handed. For an aspiring conductor who was in his second semester at Louisiana State University, working on his D.M.A., this could certainly have meant the end of a career and profession that fueled every fiber of my soul. But it didn’t.
Music and teaching were so important to me that I quickly decided that I would adapt, modify, and do whatever I needed to do in order to flourish, to remain relevant. Some approaches changed completely; some needed moderate modifications; some, just a small tweak. What did not change, what grew beyond my expectations, was my determination to be a better musician and a better person than before.
What we do now in music and music education with our school, church, and community choirs will be remembered and will matter. I plan to be on the side of innovation and creativity. I plan to be safe, smart, and informed. I plan to keep singing and teaching with more vigor than ever before.
Hours after I woke-up in the hospital from the surgical amputation, there, sitting at my bedside, was Kenneth Fulton. He said to me, “Gary, the music was never here,” gesturing to my newly amputated arm. “The music is
here (gesturing to my heart).
I had to ask myself, “so what are you going to do about this?”
This is the question we all need to ask ourselves.
I love this profession and I LOVE the students that I teach, and I plan to show them just how much! So, mourn if you must, be angry, allow whatever you are feeling to surface. But when you are done with all of that, what are you going to do about it?
Dr. Gary Packwood, Director of Choral Activities, Mississippi State University & President of ACDA's Southern Region