COLL: ­An Open Letter to cNAfME Alabama

Hello all!

This is DeLee Benton, your cNAfME Alabama president. This has been a very exciting year of new beginnings and growth for our state chapter so far! We are excited to expand our horizons through the National Collegiate Summit, through our Alabama Collegiate Summit, and through our new Collegiate Buddy Chapter System.

Our state AMEA graciously sent two collegiate members to the National Collegiate Summit and Hill Day. Several other collegiate students traveled along with these two sponsored students and many of them shared their individual experiences with our Secretary Isabelle Page. You can read more about their experiences in the previous issue of the AlaBreve.

Our Collegiate Summit will be held on October 27th, 2019 from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at Samford University. We will have opportunities for professional development, networking, and a New Teacher panel. Dinner for this event is provided by AMEA and is free to all students in attendance. More information will follow soon, so please be checking your emails!

We as the Collegiate NAfME Alabama state board have instituted our Chapter Buddy System this past summer. This new system provides collegiate pre-professional music educators with the tools they need to network with others in their future field. Music Educators often feel ostracized or singled out in their education systems and individual schools, especially in the more rural areas where they may be the only music educator for their school system. We as a Collegiate Board have been working to institute this new system to promote inclusion and to create and foster an environment of community and learning together. As educators we are never truly done learning, we will continue to learn from our peers, students, and mentors. With this Collegiate Chapter Buddy System we now have a facet of our organization specifically designed for collegians to connect with their peers before entering the professional world of music education. Now is the time to reach out and get to know our colleagues, there is a plethora of available knowledge and an opportunity for networking that we have yet to discover.

Here are the pairings for our Buddy Chapter System:

Alabama <-> UAB

Auburn <-> Troy

Montevallo <-> Samford <-> JSU

ASU <-> Faulkner <-> Miles College

UNA <-> A&M

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If you are a cNAfME chapter president and have had trouble contacting your buddy chapter, or have not received an email from the cNAfME Alabama State Board regarding your buddy chapter, please send me an email regarding your situation.

Lastly, we encourage you all to ensure you are registered for the AMEA Conference scheduled for January 16-18, 2020! There will be several opportunities for professional development, networking, and the opportunity for a free meal at our Collegiate Luncheon!

I hope to see many of you soon at our Collegiate Summit.

Warm Regards,

DeLee Benton
University of Montevallo

cNAfME Alabama President

dbenton@forum.montevallo.edu

COLL: ­Guest Article…Advocating for Music Ed…

For the Collegiate Division  we present a guest contribution from Isabella Page, cNAfME Secretary. We hope you enjoy reading her thoughts.

DeLee Benton, cNAfME President

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advocating for Music Education and Connecting with Peers From Across the Country by Isabella Page.

One of the most prominent threats to music education is the supposed lack of support from the federal government and our own education systems. In several schools, especially those underfunded or understaffed, the arts—visual art, theater, music, and more—are the first to be reduced or cut. So, how can current and future music educators do more to understand the legislative jargon that allocates the funds for music and the arts? How can we use this knowledge to better advance our programs and support our students?

The National Advocacy Summit in Washington D.C., an annual event sponsored by NAfME, is a great force for change in this area. This unique event allows collegiate members of NAfME from all over the country to congregate in Washington D.C. and interact with legislators and their staffs involved in education and funding legislation. The collegiate members attended several valuable seminars, such as the State Level Advocacy Panel, Leader Development and Public Speaking, and more. They also attended Hill Day, which involved several meetings with legislators and their staffs to learn about the behind-the- scenes decision-making involved in allocating funds to the education department.

The state of Alabama sent three representatives—Sarah Chambless, from the University of Alabama, and Chase Hampton and Sara Slusher, from the University of North Alabama. Chambless shared some of her personal experiences with the legislators and their staff, commenting, “I gained knowledge about legislation that could one day impact my career. I also learned how to advocate for music and the importance of doing so.”

Hampton comments that, had he not attended the Summit, he may have blamed insufficient funding or lacking support “on the apathy of a faceless group of people.” Instead, he realizes that “there are many groups of people making demands on our legislators, and some had not thought much about music education before we came. It will be a task for the upcoming generation of music educators to…create an ongoing dialogue with members of Congress. For me, it became less about what ‘they’ should be doing and more about what I can do.

Hampton’s realization is a viewpoint that we as collegiate members have a special obligation to explore. It is very easy to blame the government for hardships within the education system, especially as a future music educator—there never seems to be enough money for your dream program, and there never seems to be enough support from the legislators who make those decisions. Instead, we must explore our options—what can we do with the funding we have? How can we recruit members of the community to support our cause? How can we serve our students and our communities to the best of our abilities? How can we create a dialogue with our congressmen and women—or, perhaps more importantly, our own school officials?

All of the above questions have a very simple solution: we must all be well-versed in the tricky rhetoric of effective advocacy. There are endless online resources, countless seminars—college students have so many resources that become more difficult to access once we graduate, so we must be proactive.

Within your own chapter, discuss the necessity of advocacy, and raise funds to bring in a speaker or send representatives to a seminar. Better yet, explore the possibility of having one or more members apply to next years’ Summit, or fundraise to send one of your members independently.

The next challenge we often face is this: once we know how to advocate, what can we use? There is extensive and conclusive evidence to support the necessity of music and the arts in children’s overall development; NAfME has a wonderful list outlining several advantages of music to a child’s development (see https://nafme.org/20-important-benefits-of-music-in-our-schools/). These and other resources are essential to any advocate—craft your pitch, research conclusive and documented studies to prove your argument, and advocate for your school’s program to the best of your ability.

This Summit and the Summits from the past have all done an excellent job in exposing collegiate members to the inner workings of the legislation surrounding music education’s funding, as well as equipping members with the tools and courage to advocate for their programs and pass on their knowledge to their chapters and peers. There is, however, another wonderful opportunity, perhaps even more valuable than the others.

Both Chambless and Hampton agreed that, aside from the knowledge gained in advocacy and legislation, the most rewarding experience of the Summit was getting to connect with their peers from across the country. This one-of-a-kind experience allowed members from all over the nation to meet one other and swap information and ideas, all in an effort to better their own cNAfME chapters and educate their peers with the information gained. Collegiate members exchanged future plans and ideas for several key issues in statewide cNAfME chapters, including fundraising, member involvement, and participation in local schools.

Collegiate members are a powerful part of NAfME’s presence around the country—while we are still young, we have the unique opportunity to witness change within our own schools, which in turn allows us to implement those changes in our own chapters and carry the knowledge into our future jobs. We have the resources and ability to contribute to our own chapters in outreach and service, bettering our communities—we then use that knowledge and experience to nurture our programs and further our careers, all the while continuing to use our greatest resource: each other.

“While it may seem as though legislators hold most of the power,” Hampton admits, “I do not think any amount of lobbying will affect our field as much as the teachers entering.”

For more information about the National Advocacy Summit and the legislative processes involved in program funding, visit https://nafme.org/advocacy/nafme-collegiate-advocacy-summit/ and https://nafme.org/advocacy/ESSA/.

COLL: ­Why are LGBTQ+ Students Drawn to the Music Classroom?

Oftentimes in the modern school system we see efforts to “include everyone”. Yet many state governments and school administrators simultaneously preach the suppression of certain minorities. Most often these minorities are LGBTQ+ students, and even faculty, that do not receive the proper inclusion in the general education system. While schools push for students to succeed in STEM subjects, many of these minority students instead turn to the arts to find a place of solace from the pressures of daily academic life. A place where they can be themselves. Inclusion is a large part of students’ enjoyment of arts programs, specifically in music. McBride says, “For many LGBTQ students and teachers, music classrooms are still one of the most accepting and safe spaces in… schools today.” (2016).

The Music Educator plays a crucial role in the LGBTQ+ students’ feeling of acceptance and presence in the classroom. If the Educator is unwelcoming and intolerant toward the minority students, the rest of the class will perceive this hostility and react in some way. Music Educators must understand the importance of their role and the influence they have on their students. Each of their students will form a bond with music that is their own, helping the student on their journey through life as they discover how to express themselves to others successfully. It is the task of the Music Educator to provide a haven for this discovery to take place.

Why is it that the music classroom seems to be so pertinent to the LGBTQ+ community’s sense of belonging? Associate Professor of Music and Director of Choirs at Case Western Reserve University, Dr. Garret, says that like any student, “LGBTQ students want to belong. They want positive reinforcement from teachers that they are okay. Music educators can provide this type of positive support in a number of ways, many of which focus on inclusion.” (2012).

Inclusion in the music classroom is essential in all aspects and stages of the students’ lives. “Music educators provide students with opportunities to create, perform, and reflect as individuals and as members of a group. Establishing a positive and inclusive learning environment is essential to maximizing student potential” (Garret, 2012). In elementary music children learn songs together: singing together, playing together, and learning instruments together as a group. As band and choir students age, they see the same inclusiveness arise in working together for a common goal— the next concert or competition. The students find it easy to belong to a group of people who all share a deep passion for similar things. At the same time, these students also desire a place where they can be an individual.

In the modern age, LGBTQ+ students find it hard to cope with the day to day struggles they face. Roughly 90% of LGBTQ+ high school students report being verbally harassed due to their sexual orientation, 60% feel unsafe on a regular basis, nearly half experience physical harassment or assault, and almost 2/3 hear homophobic remarks from school personnel. (Bergonzi, 2009). The very people charged with protecting students are helping to put LGBTQ+ students in dangerous emotional and physical states. The music classroom has the potential to protect its students from these dangers, and it all begins with the efforts of the Music Educator.

The first step to making a classroom safe for any minority is to be aware of your own personal bias(es) and be willing to accept any student that comes your way. The educator must be open and provide a welcoming classroom environment, so no student feels rejected or unwanted. Bergonzi describes this fine line: “Rather than well-intended sympathy, empathy from and supportive alliances with straight teachers, staff, and students are needed.” This means instead of simply feeling bad for the LGBTQ+ community, you are trying to truly understand their predicament and what you can do to help. It is not the students’ fault they may feel unsafe, but perhaps the fact that they truly are not safe in their day to day environment. Once the educator understands this, they can create a safer space for their students and provide an example to the future educators in the room and to other classrooms in the county and even the state. Garret mentions that the societal norm that prohibits many teachers from realizing their classroom is not as inclusive as it could be is easily overcome through communication: “Personal bias is frequently identified as an obstacle to inclusion of LGBTQ students, whether based on religious beliefs or on other value systems…society views heterosexuality as the standard and all others as deviations.” (Garret, 2012). Conversations with local LGBTQ+ organizations, support groups, and even just local families is one of the first steps an educator can take to bring awareness to the classroom. LGBTQ+ students want to learn and be involved in music just as desperately as heterosexual students. Therefore, it is important to “advertise” your program correctly to the entire community of students. For example, using sports and other “manly” things to bring people through your choir’s doors is a strategy that leaves out a good percentage of young men who do not resonate with sports or “manly” things. McBride mentions an advertisement he saw that read, “REAL MEN SING”. A seemingly attractive idea, but not one that will appeal to all young men. If a student desires to sing and truly has a hunger for music, that pupil should be your target— and they may not follow the conventional “masculinity” stereotype. Instead of a stereotype, advertise your group to the young musicians out there who simply want to make music.

It is amazing that music can provide a safe place for LGBTQ+ students when schools have not yet stepped up to the plate. The culture of the music classroom determines the future of the program, so it is important to keep it inclusive and open but to not change oneself in the process of creating the classroom culture. For example, an LGBTQ+ teacher would not benefit from imitating a gender stereotype (heterosexual Male/Female) in the classroom. In contrast, a person of religion does not need to “convert” to anything new to create a safe classroom, nor does a straight person need to strive to hide their sexuality. These are simply examples of personal bias that the educator should be aware of. Curriculum across schools is improving with inclusivity of LGBTQ+ influencers being mentioned throughout history. In music, Bergonzi suggests we improve how we represent music history by speaking more broadly of music. This can be done by mentioning other cultures, women in music, and the immense influence LGBTQ+ composers and performers have had on western music for decades. (2009).

Students should not feel as though they are a thing that does not belong in society and has not existed until now. As Bergonzi (2009) says, “Sexual orientation in music education is not a new phenomenon.” LGBTQ+ students have the opportunity to discover music and what it means to them in their own lives through the music classroom. Music educators are the crucial piece of the safe space puzzle, providing the tools, support, and acknowledgment students need to succeed. The role and influence of music educators in the lives of LGBTQ+ students is an essential first step to those same students going out into the world and discovering what being LGBTQ+ means to them and how they can share their story with the world, creating an endless cycle of love and support for future students.

Works Cited

Bergonzi, Louis. “Sexual Orientation and Music Education: Continuing a Tradition.” Music Educators Journal, December 2009, pp. 21-25.

Garrett, Mathew L. “The LGBTQ Component of 21st-Century Music Teacher Training: Strategies for Inclusion From the Research Literature.” Applications of Research in Music Education, November 2012, pp. 55-62.

Lehmann, Andreas, Woody, Robert, and Sloboda, John A. (2007). Psychology for Musicians: Understanding and Acquiring the Skills. New York: Oxford University Press.

McBride, Nicholas R. “Singing, Sissies, and Sexual Identity.” Music Educators Journal, June 2016, pp. 36-40.

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