At the beginning of each Mobile Seminar that I teach, I always ask: "who here is a little uncomfortable with the word 'philosophy?'" Inevitably, some hands go up.
Several years ago, when I was searching for graduate schools, I kept finding programs that presented themselves as "practical," with emphases on "real world" strategies over "theoretical" or "academic" work.
On its face, this may not sound so bad. Of course, we all want our learning to be practical. But why do so many people today, from rural pastors and music leaders to graduate program supervisors at major universities, seem to believe that theory and practice are somehow opposed to eachother?
At one time, not so long ago, it was the mark of an educated individual to be able to learn and apply knowledge across a full range of life experiences and situations. The pursuit of this ideal, known biblically as "wisdom," was the aim of a liberal education. At some point in the last century, especially in the West, this lofty ideal was sacrificed for the "practical." This is not a rural issue. It is a cultural issue, and it is insidious.
What "helpful hints" are wise to use? What "practical suggestions" truly advance the learning process? What number of discussion boards, brainstorming sessions, and group projects can truly take the place of the man, well-trained in the fundamentals of his discipline, applying the wisdom of maturity and breadth of learning to every situation?
Foundational to this ideal is the question: "what do you believe about what you do?" It is precisely the answer to this question that we call one's "philosophy." Since this philosophy will dictate which "practical ideas" are used and how they are used, can we really say that any of them are more practical than that philosophy itself? I think not. That is why Philosophy of Music Ministry is at the center of our diploma program, and why it will always lead off the immensely practical instruction of our Mobile Seminar.
What do you believe about what you do? There is nothing about what you do that is more practical than your answer to this question.