AMEA: Sharpening the Axe!

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. Abraham Lincoln

Often quoted and well respected, Abraham Lincoln was a proponent of broadening one’s perspective through continued learning and experiences.  The Alabama Music Educators Association Professional Development Conference is a perfect opportunity for you to learn new approaches or techniques to employ in your rehearsals and classrooms. Your divisions have invited notable clinicians and ensembles for what will prove to be an experience you won’t forget.

A few highlights include our Honor Choir of high school musicians from around the state.  The NAFME Southern Division President, Sara Womack, will be the speaker at the AMEA Leadership Breakfast and will update us on the Alabama Course of Study and its implementation. Be sure to join us for the General Session, where the Keynote Speaker will be Peter Boonshaft, who always has encouraging insightful words. Acapella Super Group Voctave will also perform! This will be a conference you will not want to miss!

AMEA Board Happenings

The AMEA Board met in August and  completed much of the conference planning.  We are fortunate to have Executive Director Garry Taylor, who has such a talent for conference logistics and planning.  Moving to a new venue is a daunting task but Garry and Assistant Executive Director Rusty Logan have met the challenge with enthusiasm and I’m sure it will prove to be a great fit for our organization. We also reviewed organizational documents, the outcome of the outside financial review, and voted to house the AMEA awards in the Troy University John M. Long School of Music.

ESSA Update

Most of you are aware of the recent resignation of the State School Superintendent.  This is a critical time for education as each state’s plan for the Every Child Succeeds Act is due to the Federal Department of Education.  In light of recent events, and because the Alabama document was seen as lacking in detail, Governor Ivey has asked Secretary DeVos for and was granted an extension to the deadline.  The Governor has indicated that she will not sign if items she has identified are not addressed and will ask for an additional extension. The Alabama Arts Organizations have all sent letters in the last several weeks to encourage strengthening the role of the arts in the Alabama ESSA Plan. We will be sure to keep you updated.  We encourage you to send letters and call your state representative.  We know music is part of a well-rounded education and we want it articulated in the state document.

Organizational Goals

In my first article as President, I outlined some priorities for the organization during my tenure.  Below are updates to these objectives.

Build Bridges

Appointed Legislative Liaison – I have appointed Rob Lyda as our Legislative Liaison to keep AMEA updated on the happenings in state government that effect teachers and students and be a voice for the organization.

Retired Member Chair – I have appointed Jim Knight as the State Chairperson for the Retired Music Educators to encourage distribution of information and foster greater involvement of our retired members.

ESSA – We have worked with other State Arts groups and Arts Education Specialist Andy Meadows in support of ESSA and the Alabama Course of Study.

Conference Presidents Board Meeting -The Presidents Board will meet again in  January at the Professional Development Conference to help guide the organization.

Music Industry Connections – We have made revisions to our vendor registration as well as added a reception during the day in the exhibit area to foster connections.

Encourage and Support Teachers

Post-Conference Session for Young Teachers – we will host the first post-conference session specifically for young music teachers of 1- 5 years of experience.  The session will be held from 1:00-3:00 PM Saturday of the conference.  This will be a time of support and encouragement for this vital portion of our membership. We encourage any interested members to attend.

Sponsored Work Sessions – AMEA sponsored work sessions for the unpacking of the new Course of Study for music.

Conference Orientation for Collegiates – For the first time we will host an orientation session for our collegiates to foster connections and present suggestions to maximize the conference experience.

Lightning Round – This year we accepted applications for lightening rounds to foster interest and experience in presenting for our younger members.

Recognize and Encourage Success

Awards – We continue to give awards for outstanding music educators, administrators, and young teachers.  We will recognize our NAfME Collegiate Chapter of Excellence, the University of Montevallo and William Yates of the University of Montevallo, recipient of the NAfME Professional Achievement Award.

National Recognition – We have three ensembles who will perform at national events in the next few months and we plan to recognize them at the conference and in publications.  These include:

  • The Alabama Winds, conducted by Mr. Randall Coleman, will perform at the Midwest Clinic.
  • The Troy University Symphony Band, Dr. Mark Walker Conductor and the Pizitz Middle School Band, Ms. Kim Bain and Mrs. Leah Seng Conductors, will represent our state at the CBDNA Southern Division Conference in February.
  • Alabama had three students selected for the All National Honor Ensembles. Jon Featheringill and Bethany Simon were selected for the symphony orchestra and Caroline Habig for the concert band.

While there always seems to be more to do, I am elated about the direction of our organization and continued growth of our membership.

Over my years of teaching, I have found state and national music conferences to be a vital part of the profession. Staying current and motivated as a teacher is the secret to success and longevity.  We have a great AMEA Professional Development Conference planned for you this year and hope you will join us January 18-20, 2018 in Birmingham at the Birmingham–Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC) in Birmingham, Alabama.

See you in Birmingham!

Susan L. Smith