Just over six weeks ago, I sent you a letter with a statement using the term “unprecedented times.” Little did I know the direction our country would take, and how “unprecedented” these times would become. When I began writing this, I saw police: on horseback, throwing teargas, with shields, batons, and guns ready.

From this point forward, “unprecedented” does not adequately speak to these times.

We were expecting to be hosting you in Breckenridge this week and wish you were with us. I cannot help but think of all of you and what you must be experiencing watching these events unfold. And, I cannot help but remember my youth (though I was younger than you are now), watching the Civil Rights movement and the Anti-War demonstrations in the Nineteen Sixties and early Seventies.

I ask myself, can we, as Americans, as human beings, fundamentally change? Can we affect a change in our society? Why is it taking so long? What can I do about it?  I do not have answers. But I have many feelings, first and foremost is distress.

I look to the past to see how similar times were managed. It seems to me that throughout our history, music has always been part of our struggle and our healing. While my youth saw much conflict, the music I grew up on gave voice to the voiceless. It gave a common understanding. It said what mere words could not. For this reason, I feel privileged to have lived through those turbulent years. Even now, I find comfort in the music created during those “unprecedented” times.

And here we are again in the midst of our same struggle. Now, as ever, we need music. Music can stir our patriotic sentiments (whatever that may mean to you at this time). Music can be a source to move people, to turn “no” into “yes,” to turn “wrong” into “right” and to turn “never” into “now.” Music can give us solace, not to hide our head in the sand but to provide us with the conviction that what we are doing is right. That only through continued effort will change come.

Making things worse is that because of COVID-19, our musical voices are essentially silenced. I suspect many of you, like me, became a musician because music conveyed what words too often failed to express.

So my message to you is this: What are we going to do now? How are we going to use these terrible events as an opportunity? How will we all fight for social justice, equity, and equality?  How will we work for inclusion, understanding, and empathy?

Now is the right time – it is always the right time. We must learn, and we must teach. It’s not too late when you are 80 years old, and it is not too early when you are just eight months old. We make choices every day. Who we are is defined in our actions and in what we leave behind. Who are you, and what will you leave behind?

The NRO’s vision is; Breaking barriers between education, performance, and community to develop 21st-century musicians. We are committed to doing better. Now is the time for concentrated action.

Dave DePeters