"My Life in Art"

Conductor Pete Deshler on “My Life in Art”

Take something you love, tell people about it, bring together people who share your love, and help make it better. Ultimately, you’ll have more of whatever you love for yourself and the world.Julius Schwartz

I believe these words from former DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz sum up why most of us in the arts “do what we do.” Something about our chosen art moves us at the core of our being, and we wish to share that passion with others. Sharing is the underlying motif that connects all the arts. Art that is not shared has little or no purpose. Sharing is what gives art its vitality, spurs new ideas, and influences new artists. I’ve always felt that one of the best parts about the arts is that there is always something new to learn. New works are continually being created, the well of fresh experiences never runs dry. Also, so much art has been created in the past, by so many different people across the whole world, that no one person could experience it all. The more a work is shared, the more life and meaning it receives. As artists, I feel it is our responsibility to continue this cycle of sharing with the next generation. This is what led me to education, even though I would not have been able to put it into words at the time. 

Music moved me at an early age, but my first real encouragement came from my fourth grade band director. After my first band concert, I drew a musical staff in the back of my lesson book and created my first piece, “March of the Instruments.” When I showed my “masterpiece” to Mr. Gambone, he got very excited, urged me to continue composing, and handed me my first stack of manuscript paper. After school that day, I immediately began my next piece. I had similar encouragement from other teachers in my school career: my middle school band director who convinced me to take trombone lessons, the middle school choir director who persuaded me to join choir, and of course my private trombone teacher. When it came time for college, I decided that I wanted to encourage others the same way I had been encouraged, which is why I earned a bachelor’s degree in music education atWest ChesterUniversity.

All of the facets of my musical life revolve around sharing. As a music educator, I try to instill in my students a love of music as well as a passion for lifelong learning. I would like all of my students to continue participating in music, even if it is only as a hobby. Sometimes as teachers, we learn as much as we instruct. I have gained many insights, both musical and educational, while helping students overcome their difficulties. Sharing is also a major component of the Jerusalem Singers’ mission. As director of the Jerusalem Singers, I am able to bring high-quality a cappella choral music directly to an audience that has probably never experienced it. In addition, we collect food for the homeless and raise money for charities. As a concert series coordinator and a member of the Wandering Singers, I am able to expose listeners to a variety of music, which they may not have heard in the past. Finally, like any other composer, I am always trying to share my works with new audiences.

I believe that art is part of what makes us uniquely human. Art is a gateway to our inner-selves, our deepest emotions. Art enriches our lives. I truly believe the world would be a better place if more of us would sing in a choir, create sculpture, write plays, or dance. By creating art, we can share a small part of our humanity with others; perhaps if everyone on Earth could learn to communicate through art, we might find that we have more in common than we think.

Pete Deshler is a choir director at Easton Area High School, founder and director of the Jerusalem Singers, coordinator of the Jerusalem Western Salisbury Summer Concert Series, a member of the Wandering Singers, and a composer.

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