My wife is a member of a local Toastmaster’s chapter, and recently served as an evaluator, critiquing other members’ speeches. She decided to approach the evaluations as if she were critiquing musical performances. She used musical terminology (explaining unfamiliar terms, of course) and held the speakers to the highest performance standards she would expect from professional musicians.

Her feedback was revelatory for the rest of the group. They hung on every word, because everything she was telling them made perfect sense, and because they had never thought about things in quite that way before.

We musicians can forget sometimes how astonishing our most basic skills are. Instead, we lament all the things music can’t accomplish compared to other art forms. We should take pride in the unique powers of music, our most elusive form of communication, that can only be experienced, not explained. What pursuit develops greater sensitivity to every gradation of sound, to the subtlest adjustments in the passage of time? The world has so much to learn from us! If only we could articulate our sensitivities more clearly, more often, more emphatically – and without apology.

A world of better listeners would certainly be an improvement, in every way.

Maybe we need to find a new name for ourselves besides Musicians, something that conveys the extraordinary powers we have developed, something with a mythical ring to it, a name that would command the highest cultural esteem.

The Guardians of Sound and Time?

Well, you get the idea.

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