Next week, my orchestra begins rehearsals for John Adamsâ€™ On the Transmigration of Souls. With the release of the critically-acclaimed United 93 this past weekend and the Adams work on my music stand, my thoughts have returned to the tragic events of nearly five years ago. Today on the National Public Radio program Fresh Air, the guest was former Department of Homeland Security inspector general Clark Kent Ervin. In the course of talking about the response of the government to the attacks and the 911 Commissionâ€™s report, a phrase from the commissionâ€™s report was repeated several times, and it caught my attention:
â€œThe most important failure was one of imagination.â€
In fact, lack of imagination was so central to the failure to interdict the attacks that there is a subsection in the report entitled â€œInstitutionalizing Imaginationâ€. 
Studies link music education in children to improved academic achievement , and I think that one of the leading factors in this improvement relates to imagination. Music, of all the fine arts, makes the highest demands upon the imagination, in both of the participatory guises: performer and listener.
As performers we are called on to decipher symbols which tell us the length, loudness, tempo, and articulation of each note. Years of training help us to discern what is â€œin betweenâ€ those notes, as it were, but much of the interpretive process that remains is left to our artistic imagination. If weâ€™re playing a modern score, there is relatively little left to the imagination than if we are performing a solo sonata, partita or suite of J.S. Bach, where there is little indication of what lies underneath, with a minimum of instructions given by the composer.
As a listener, we have to make sense of sounds which may be foreign and/or distasteful to us, to concepts which we have not yet experienced, and take an abstract form and relate it to emotional concepts from our own emotional history.
The rigor of facing these dilemmas from an early age really do, I believe, give those who have had a musical education a real edge in reasoning and conceptual skills. By combining these skills with the increased aptitude demonstrated in other subjects, mathematics chief among them, we enable a generation of children to better take on the challenges that will face them in the future.
So, as September 11, 2006 draws closer, and there is much talk of the lack of imagination demonstrated by our government, industry, and citizenry – view it as a call to arms on behalf of a renewed dedication to arts education in our schools. We cannot afford not to take up this call.