From the President

AOA: Report

Is it possible to feel exhausted before a new academic year has started? For many classrooms, the prospect of a Plan A, B, C, and D can become reality at any moment. Virtual or hybrid instruction poses hundreds of technical logistics to overcome, as music education incorporates so much tactile and experiential learning. Fortunately, Alabama has some of the nation’s finest music teachers who are constantly innovating unique ways to connect students with the music curriculum.

“Music has the power of producing a certain effect on the moral character of the soul, and if it has the power to do this, it is clear that the young must be directed to music and must be educated in it.” – Aristotle, Politics

However, it is important to keep in mind that poor mental health in ourselves and our students during the pandemic may stop the ability to learn at the front door. Early in the semester, celebrate small victories along the way, and motivate students through discovery and wonder.

I am reminded of a 2-minute spot on a morning news show that begins, “We leave you this Sunday morning with a moment of nature…” It’s interesting to see my family go about a busy day, multi-tasking multiple electronic devices, work around the house, and calls from the office, but when a 2-minute moment like this reminds us to breathe, we pause and find stillness.

Take a moment yourself right now, and search for one of the following five pieces to find a few moments of peace:

+ Samuel Barber – Adagio for Strings (9’)
+ Amy Beach – Romance for Violin (6’)
+ Edward Elgar – “Nimrod” from Enigma Variations (4’)
+ Ennio Morricone – Gabriel’s Oboe (4’)
+ Sergei Rachmaninov – Symphony No. 2 – III. Adagio (15’)

To take a minute to find the center, we are reminded why we boldly owned music as a career. We all desperately yearn for harmonious moments in front of our students and know that when our world improves, we will never take live music for granted again.

I am honored to serve AMEA and AOA as President for the next two years. I work with 22 talented colleagues that uplift the AOA mission to “develop a comprehensive program that will be of musical and educational benefit to string/orchestra teachers and their students.” AOA hopes to provide a common meeting ground and clearinghouse for an exchange of ideas and methods that will stimulate professional growth among teachers that will, in general, advance the standards of musical and educational achievement for the students of Alabama.

Please refer to the AOA website at to engage with us. Let us help you find resources for your ensembles, classrooms, and virtual educational space.

This year, we are excited to bring world-renowned clinicians to Alabama: AMEA CONFERENCE – January 2021:

Dr. Christopher Selby – author of Habits of a Successful Orchestra Director, Music Theory for the Successful String Musician, and co-author of the Habits of a Successful String Musician series, published by GIA. He is an active clinician and has presented sessions at two Midwest Clinics, the 2016 NAfME National Conference, five American String Teacher Association (ASTA) National Conferences, and he currently directs the high school orchestras at the School of the Arts in Charleston, South Carolina.

ALL-STATE ORCHESTRA – February 2021:

Ms. Helen Cha-Pyo – is the Artistic Director of the Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts and Principal Conductor of the New Jersey Youth Symphony. For 16 years as Music Director and Conductor of the Empire State Youth Orchestra, Ms. Cha-Pyo has inspired hundreds of young musicians to perform at the highest levels, resulting in 3 prestigious ASCAP awards. Born in Seoul, Ms. Cha-Pyo immigrated to the US when she was 12 and has studied music at The Juilliard School, Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, and the Eastman School of Music.

Mr. Russell E. Berlin, Jr. – is inducted into the Missouri Music Educators Association Hall-of-Fame, for a nationally-recognized 30-year career in the Lee’s Summit School District, in addition to a 20-year career as conductor with the Youth Symphony of Kansas City. Under his direction, Mr. Berlin’s ensembles have appeared at the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic, Carnegie Hall, the International Youth, and Music Festival in Vienna.

Ms. Fariga Drayton – is an experienced educator in her tenth year in the Kirkwood, Missouri School District, teaching beginning strings, and is the director for the Nipher Middle School and Kirkwood High School Symphonic Orchestra. Out of 18 years as an educator, Ms. Drayton’s ensembles have been featured at the Midwest Clinic International Band and Orchestra Conference and she has featured the youngest ensemble ever invited to perform at the Nation Youth Orchestra Festival (Director’s Choice) at Carnegie Hall. Known as a 30-year professional cellist specializing in alternative music, she has been featured at multiple music educator conventions, and has performed with the Transiberian Orchestra, the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players Mid-West Tour, and the Southern Illinois Music Festival.

Welcome back to what I hope will be another great year! We recognize each of you for your tremendous accomplishments and know we have a dynamic year ahead. The Alabama Orchestra Association is looking forward to serving you and your students throughout the upcoming seasons.



Daniel Stevens, President

Alabama Orchestra Association