National President Essay Contest: My Vision of TBΣ Past and Present

by Sky Buffington, Beta Sigma, TBΣ |

[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #0099FF;”]L[/dropcap]ast summer, Past National President Dollie O’Neill called for applications for the National President Essay Contest. Like many sisters and brothers, I was elated for the opportunity to share the vision for Tau Beta Sigma that has been brewing in my mind since joining the Sorority four and a half years ago. From each new experience in Tau Beta Sigma and each conversation with another sister, these thoughts took root and grew.

Although I was fortunate enough to be chosen to present my thoughts at National Convention in Colorado Springs, I wish I could hear each of the responses written for the contest as well as the ideas and concepts that each of you have for our Sorority. Not I, nor any other individual, has the “best” vision for our organization; but as we all begin to share our dreams of the future, we can collaborate and find a path that is better than what any one of us could imagine.

What follows is the text of the essay/speech in its entirety. Please feel free to send feedback to Sky@TBSigma.org and check out his Band Leadership Blog at http://www.LeadInStep.com.

Sixty-five years ago, on March 26th, 1946, Tau Beta Sigma was officially chartered in Stillwater, Oklahoma. After many years of tireless dedication from many passionate people, Wava’s dream finally became reality. She and the other brave leaders of this bold and budding organization realized that a better world was possible than the one they lived in — a world  where women were just as welcomed, appreciated, and accepted in the field of music (and in every other part of society) as their male counterparts.

In the years following, Tau Beta Sigma has continued to support collegiate bands and women in music while expanding coast-to-coast. We have cleaned up band facilities, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, hosted countless social events—from step shows to formal dances—and developed within each of us a lifelong appreciation for the power of music, all in tireless pursuit of our ideals. We have had our mistakes too, but we learn from them and continue to grow into a stronger sisterhood. Our past is most definitely one of which to be proud.

If we have accomplished so much, why are we still here today? Have we fulfilled our purpose yet? In preparing for this essay, I decided to get some sort of measurement of how effective we have been. I looked up each school where Tau Beta Sigma has a chapter and wrote down whether their Director of Bands was male or female. Out of our 141 active chapters, only four currently have female Directors of Bands. Four! Where are the female Directors of Bands? Where are the female role models in music? And where are the female composers? I know we have rarely played a piece of music composed by a woman at Purdue during the past few years, and I imagine the same is true at your universities. Clearly, Tau Beta Sigma has much more to do. When was the last time that we took a stand, either individually or as an organization, to express to university administrators how hungry we are for a faculty that represents the diversity of our bands?

In the past hundred years, huge strides in civil rights have been made in this country, from women gaining suffrage in 1929, to the outlaw of discrimination in employment on the basis of sex and race in 1964, to the adoption of Title IX in 1972. Today, more than ever, our world needs organizations to take a stand for the rights and privileges of all people. While Tau Beta Sigma has taken a stand for women, are there other groups that we’ve left behind? Take a moment to look around at our National Convention, and you will see the widest variety of individuals whom have been united under one sorority; we are women and men of different ethnicities, religions, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexual orientations, gender identities, and definitely different opinions. We are Tau Beta Sigma — sisters all. It’s our bond which unites us, strengthens us, and empowers us to change our world.

In 65 years, we have come so far! In the next 65 years, I see us growing and developing into an even greater organization. We will seek to cultivate a world where instrumental music thrives and every individual has the opportunity to join in the melody. Simple, isn’t it? Our vision or mission, whatever we call it, doesn’t need to be anything more than that. It doesn’t need to be something created by a consulting firm to ensure “synergy,” a “win-win,” “alignment,” or any other buzzword. It doesn’t need to lay out our entire path for the next 65 years. What we need is a calling—a noble pursuit that inspires each of us to push past the everyday obstacles and reach for a better future. We need an objective that we can all be proud to share with our peers. The next time someone asks you why you are a member of Tau Beta Sigma, wouldn’t it feel nice to say that you joined because Tau Beta Sigma seeks to cultivate a world where instrumental music thrives and every individual has the opportunity to join in the melody? I believe we all would love to be a part of an organization like that.

What will we look like in 2076 if we take on this commission? We will be a strong and independent Sisterhood capable of charting our own course for the future. We will no longer sit on our hands and wait for other organizations to take the lead, but we will press on every day to achieve our purpose. We will respect other nonprofit organizations, from fraternities to foundations, forming partnerships to change our world. In 2076, Tau Beta Sigma will be more than a collegiate experience. We will find new, greater ways to support instrumental music. We will provide ways for our sisters to continue to serve our calling well beyond their college years. We will make instrumental music available for young musicians around the world. Finally, we will make the college band experience great for every musician, not just our members.

Sure it sounds like some crazy goals here for an organization as young as ours, but we are definitely capable of it. By 2076 we will be 130 years old, which is older than many of the most respected nonprofit organizations around the world including the United Way (1887), Goodwill Industries (1902), Amnesty International (1961), and Habitat for Humanity (1976). These incredibly effective organizations have accomplished so much around the world in their short lifespans, and I know that Tau Beta Sigma has at least as much potential.

Obviously this path will be challenging, but I am confident we can do it. Let’s start today! Let’s build on the amazing foundation that our sisters before us have created and begin down a path towards an even better future! Let’s never give up our past and our ideals while we develop into a powerful organization for changing and improving our world.

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