In times of disgrace, a refreshing sendoff from a noble man

In this day and age of identity politics, crass kowtowing to the lowest denominator of behavior, it is exhilarating — in fact, downright refreshing — to read the words of a gentleman who epitomizes what it means to strive for excellence.

William D. Revelli is still an icon in the world of music performance.  For 36 years, he was the director of bands and chair of the Wind Instrument Department at the School of Music at the University of Michigan.  Those who studied under his direction still speak with deep reverence about this man’s impact on them.  Revelli passed away  in July of 1994, but “his influence on the development of band music, not only at Michigan, but in the entire United States, was so profound that not an article is written nor an anecdote told of him without the use of superlatives and frequent mention of the word ‘legendary.'”[1] 

The son of Italian immigrants, Revelli developed the University of Michigan Symphony Band to such a degree that it attained “an international reputation as well.  In 1961, under the auspices of [President Eisenhower’s] International Cultural Exchange Program, the Michigan Symphony Band presented 88 concerts on a 16-week, 30,000 mile tour of the Soviet Union, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Romania and Poland.  In 1971, the Band on its final tour under the Revelli baton, concluded with a final concert in Carnegie Hall.”[2]

At the time, the New York Times wrote that Revelli “got out of his students what not many bandmasters ever achieve — a brilliant yet luminous texture of tone, a smart-sounding ensemble, well-balanced choirs and instrumental virtuosity.”[3]  In fact, the CD titled “Touchdown, USA” that was recorded in 1961 is still considered an amazing illustration of the exemplary playing of the University of Michigan Band conducted by Dr. Revelli.

My husband was one of those students who was so influenced by Revelli.  He recently discovered a farewell letter written by Revelli to the marching band that reveals a moral compass that so many of our institutions of higher learning have carelessly shed in their left-leaning capitulation to being woke — much to the disadvantage of their students.  The letter reads as follows:

Thursday evening, November 17, 1970

11:45 p.m.

Gentlemen of Michigan:

The evening shadows are long; soon, another day will have passed — gone into eternity — beyond recall, never to return in our times. Tomorrow’s dawn will bring another day — a new opportunity to live, to love, to work, to help each other.

What a great and rewarding season this has been. You have performed nobly; to each and every one of you, I offer my sincere gratitude and eternal thanks.

Come Saturday, we shall give our very best, our all, for our band, our team, our University, and ourselves. Once again, we shall uphold our motto — “Non Tam Pares, Quam Superiores.”[4]

Following is my final message to you. It is not new; you have heard it many times, yet it is as true today as it has been since the birth of mankind and as it will be for centuries to come. I hope you will make it a part of your personal credo — for if it becomes so, then I, too, shall be a part of you — “even if ever so small.”

REVELLI’S CREDO

  1. Excellence. Do not be deceived by the cult of the mediocre — the enemy of excellence, and remember that excellence demands standards. It is revealing to see how often a man who keeps the highest standards in his professional calling will tolerate the lowest of standards elsewhere. Would it not be more desirable to seek in every phase of life the standards that perfection requires?
  2. Adequate Thinking. This means adequate purpose, for purpose, and not L.S.D. or any other drug is the greatest expander of the mind and stimulant of the mental faculties.
  3. Creativity. Abjure cynicism. Do not be deceived by the false intellectualism of the cynic. He is often the man who in his heart knows the truth, and in his mind, has decided not to face it. He devoted his brain to justifying the stultification of his conscience. Cynicism in you strangles creativity in others. Give free rein to heart and conscience; creative imagination will come alive.
  4. Commitment. We hear a great deal about commitment in the University environment, and even in circles where the person has it or not, I think just about everyone is committed to something. The human being is a committed animal by nature. The trouble is, he is usually committed first of all to himself. But, the greatest men and women of history have usually found a worthy commitment far bigger than themselves. Seek that.
  5. Faith. Faith that man’s spirit can carry his abilities far beyond his ordinary capacity. Faith that man’s closest approach to God lies in his whole-souled response to the greatest task he feels God has for him. Faith that man is not a prisoner of circumstances — that he can shape history rather than be shaped by it.
  6. Worthwhile Adventure. Not least, a spirit of a happy worthwhile adventure. The spirit that comes from the heart and talents mobilized for urgent worthy ends.

I love each and every one of you, and I pray that God may bless and keep you healthy and happy always.

Remember — it is not who you are or where you are, but rather what you are that shall bring you life’s joys and happiness.

Sincerely your devoted friend,

William D. Revelli

If only we could return to this sense of purpose, this exalted idea that people can shape their own history, and understand that cynicism is the tool meant to defeat our creativity, perhaps we can turn the tide against the myriad destructive forces that work so assiduously to destroy this great nation.

Eileen can be reached at middlemarch18@gmail.com.

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