The following is the text of a letter dated December 31, 2013, read on my behalf by Randall Allsup at the memorial celebration of the life of Bennett Reimer held at Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA. My letter was addressed to Beth (Bennett's wife), family, and colleagues of Bennett.
Although I am unable to be present on the occasion of this memorial celebration of Bennett's life, I wanted to share some thoughts with you.
I met Bennett through his writings after I had met Susanne Langer through hers, and I immediately saw the influence that she had had on him. As a young doctoral student, my mentor gave me a worn copy of Langer's Philosophy in a New Key, telling me that it was one of the most important books he had ever read. As philosophers, everything we write is wrong, yet, there may still be ideas worth salvaging. Within Langer's and Bennett's writings lay kernels of truth. I wrote in my dissertation that music education can be thought of as a form of aesthetic education, and I haven't changed my mind. It is, at least, partly that. In that early writing, I also disagreed with and critiqued their ideas as I mined them. For me, then as now, philosophy is about clarifying our ideas as we agree and disagree with others in a conversation among friends in search of truth. In that search, I am thankful to have had Bennett's counsel and support for over 20 years as an editorial board member of the Philosophy of Music Education Review and contributor to the Philosophy Special Research Interest Group of the National Association for Music Education and the International Society for the Philosophy of Music Education. There are very few old scholars in music education. Last June, when we welcomed Bennett and Beth to the Ninth International Symposium on the Philosophy of Music Education at Columbia University, New York City, it was a joy to see him still at work, responding graciously to Randall Allsup's paper (a dialogue that we will publish in PMER), and holding onto crucial ideas while having grown over the years.
We have lost a wonderful person who lived life richly and made an outstanding contribution to the field of music education and beyond. In honor of his work as a philosopher of music education, among the many facets of his professional life, the Philosophy of Music Education Review will carry an In Memoriam to Bennett's life and work contributed by fellow philosopher Forest Hansen, and a special issue devoted to the ideas that he left us contributed by prominent music educational leaders and writers. Such moments of professional loss leave a rent in our midst that can never quite be patched. We grieve for this terrible and final loss. As the distinguished American poet, Maya Angelou put it in her eloquent poem to Nelson Mandele, "His work is done." Along with our sorrow at his loss is our memory of the joy, idealism, and hope that characterized his lived life. We cling collectively to the memories of the blessings he brought us in simply being Bennett.