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

AMEA: Rejuvenated and Ready!

Hello and welcome back to the 2017- 2018 school year! I hope that you each had some time to unwind and regenerate this summer. We all look forward to this time with anticipation and sometimes hesitancy for what the new school year will bring. I realized this summer  I went to my 27th year of band camps, as I had the honor of watching and supporting my daughter at the start of her teaching career.  I am struck by the similarities and differences of what today’s teachers encounter on a daily basis. There is nothing like the moment of making a difference in a child’s life or watching a lightbulb turn on for the first time. These are the experiences that keep all coming back to school each year.

Many of our members had the opportunity to participate in professional development by taking classes or going to one of the number of camps that are offered around the country this summer. I am inspired by those who take the time to refine their craft taking Orff and Kodály certification classes or attending conducting clinics and summer conferences. Teachers were naturally inquisitive and driven and the summer is our time to grow as musicians and educators – although it usually seems too short!

Organizational Health

The AMEA Board has been working diligently to broaden the reach and strengthen the foundation and longevity of our organization.  At our meeting in June, this group met to review the activity of the previous year and set our course for the coming year.  The first order of business was to welcome our new members who have moved on to the board from several of the divisions. We have budgeted this year for a financial review by a third party for the information and protection of the organization. We are pleased to report the total increase in membership totals – especially in Tri-M. If you are interested in starting a Tri-M Chapter, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a board member for advice or suggestions.  This is a great way to advocate for your program through your students.

 May 2015 May 2016 May 2017 
Retired 113116109
Collegiate 268291268
Tri M 78311201360
Total 223826182841

We continue to refine our media outreach and member functionality of our website.  Http:// is intended to be the unified face of our organization and we appreciate the leadership of Immediate Past President Dr. Carl Hancock in this venture.  Keep a lookout for additions to the website as well as a Conference Attendance Justification Kit.  Dr. Hancock is creating this valuable resource for distribution to our membership to help justify conference attendance. Another area we have made changes is our exhibitor sign-up for the AMEA Conference.  Exhibitors are now able to choose their booth from an interactive map and pay online.  This will better serve the needs of our industry partners as well as streamline the process for the AMEA office.  Special thanks to Garry Taylor for his leadership in this area of the organization.

The board is currently in discussion to house the AMEA Hall of Fame and other awards at Troy University in the John M. Long School of Music.

Alabama Course of Study

In April, the State Board of Education approved the Alabama Course of Study for Arts Education without any reservations.  We appreciate all the AMEA members who worked on this. The next step is to unpack the standards to make them more practical for teachers. AMEA Past President Sara Womack presented to the board the progress of the Course of Study Committee she has chaired.  The committee was asked to produce a vehicle for music teachers to make the implementation more practical. AMEA is committed to supporting music teachers by advocating for the development of these tools.


In June, members of your AMEA Board traveled to Washington DC for the annual NAfME National Assembly and Hill Day.  AMEA Executive Director Garry Taylor and Assistant Executive Director Dr. Rusty Logan attended meetings on topics germain to running a state MEA.  They joined myself, Past President Sara Womack, and Collegiate Secretary Brenton Nash as we visited the offices of Alabama Senators and Representatives.  We visited the offices of Senator Shelby and Senator Strange as well as Representatives Sewell, Brooks and Roby.  We shared with their educational legislative aides how important full funding of the ESSA law was at the suggested levels that were passed in the bipartisan bill.  We discussed the importance of Title I funding and the need for professional development for teachers,  especially in those areas where it is not funded by school districts. I was very proud of all the members of our delegation for their passionate advocacy for music education in Alabama.  Following Hill Day activities, members attended informational sessions concerning ways to enhance the experience for our membership.

2018 Conference Preview

Much of our meeting in June was spent discussing our move to Birmingham for our annual Professional Development Conference January 18-20, 2018.  The new venue will enhance the experience for all at the conference.  We will all have a learning curve as we navigate the new venue.  The board will do everything we can to make this transition as smooth as possible. We will announce most of our clinics and performing groups in the next Ala Breve.  However, we do want to give you a preview by mentioning two of our performing groups.  We have invited the Alabama Symphony Orchestra to perform an exciting program on Thursday evening of the conference .  We are thrilled to feature Voctave  as they perform during Friday’s general session.  This Orlando based vocal group has become hugely popular and has multiple YouTube videos with views in the millions.  For more information, visit You won’t want to miss this!

You can make the difference!

As we start this year, many of us will welcome new colleagues to our state and meet first year teachers.  Please take the time to invite them to participate in your division area and become members of AMEA.  You may remember being a music department of one person, and how much it meant when an experienced teacher reached out to help or guide. Be the mentor that you needed as a first-year teacher.

If you have ideas for our organization, please get involved.  Find a way to give back to a career that gives so much.

Have a great year!

Susan L. Smith

AMEA: Lacey Powell – A Teacher for all Seasons

Susan Smith

Lives of great men all remind us, we can make our lives sublime, and, departing, leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

When discussing leadership with my students – I always try to impress on them that there are multiple ways to lead. Some emerge as outgoing, first-to-the-top type of leaders and others lead through quiet example. While some leaders do what others can’t or won’t and others lead by going to work everyday making things better for all. Lacey Powell was a servant leader for our state in multiple facets.

Dr. Powell was the first band director at the University of South Alabama and served as President of Alabama Music Educators Association. He was the President of Phi Beta Mu and served as the state chairman of College Band Directors National Association as well as the American School Band Directors Association. He served as the Executive Director of AMEA and during his career as Director of Bands at Georgiana High School, Andalusia High School and Davidson High School, his bands were awarded only superior ratings.

The Alabama Music Educators Association named him Outstanding Music Educator and awarded him the AMEA Barbara Odom Leadership Service Award. He was inducted in the Alabama Bandmasters Hall of Fame and the Alabama Music Educators Association Hall of Fame. We have recently renamed an annual award in his honor, the Lacey Powell Outstanding Music Educator Award, highlighting the best of our teachers in music education.

After I was elected President of the AMEA, the first congratulatory letter came from Lacey Powell. His kind words were so genuine and heartfelt. He was never too busy to make others feel good and was always interested in bettering himself and those around him.

After his passing his students said about Dr. Powell;

“Mr. Powell was one of the most important teachers in my life. He made an impression on me to always keep trying, and endure to meet goal. He taught honor. “

“The best band director ever.”

“I was extremely privileged to have known Lacey through his and my love of music.What a joy to have worked under his tutelage while a member of the Marching 200 band.”

“I can still remember so very well as a Freshman when Dr. Powell ran over to me while in the 1st halftime DHS marching band practice exchanging my 3rd Trumpet music for 1st Trumpet saying, “You’re a 1st Trumpet player now”.”

As we make our way each day the best we know how, we hope to leave some legacy or have made some meaningful impact on our students and our profession. Lacey Powell did just that. While we will all miss his smile and giving heart, Lacey’s leadership will forever impact and guide music education for our state.

AMEA: Another positive step in serving the needs of our membership…

Susan Smith

I am thrilled that this year the AMEA Professional Development Conference took another positive step in serving the needs of our membership and took leaps and bounds in terms of teamwork of the leadership.  I was immensely proud of the General Session on Friday with Synergy, the special needs drumming ensemble from Homewood High School, and Scott Lang, our keynote speaker. Their performance and his talk embodied the motivation behind what we have chosen as our avocation and I was encouraged to see the audience of teachers and students react so positively.

We teach our students that there is no “i” in team but often as music educators we are a team of one.  Many of us teach on our own and don’t have a department or colleagues in our specialty in the same building.  So to see the leadership of AMEA come together in such a meaningful way to serve you – is even more special.  The AMEA Governing Board is made up of your division representatives.  They are your voice and they work to plan, implement, and troubleshoot issues that arise at the sessions and concerts at the conference.  As Executive Director Garry Taylor pointed out, this year it was evident that there was real teamwork from all the governing board. Special thanks to these servant leaders who made this conference such a memorable experience:

  • President Elect – Greg Gumina
  • Immediate Past President – Carl Hancock
  • Executive Director – Garry Taylor
  • Assistant Executive Director – Rusty Logan
  • Treasurer/Registrar – Pat Stegall
  • Recording Secretary – Carla Gallahan
  • AVA President – Ginny Coleman
  • ABA President – Mike Holmes
  • AOA President – Sam Nordlund
  • Elem/Gen President – Cliff Huckabee
  • Collegiate Advisor – Ted Hoffman
  • Collegiate President – Josh Meyer
  • High Ed President – Becky Halliday
  • Industry Representative – Becky Lightfoot

Additional thanks to these behind-the-scenes people who made the conference run smoothly:

  • Carl Davis- AVA Stage Manager
  • Marc McLendon – MPAC Stage Manager
  • Josh Stark – A/V Facilitator
  • Randall Coleman – Intercollegiate Band
  • Mary Ann Stegall – Assistant Registrar
  • Ron Bearden – Conference Volunteer
  • James Champion – Conference Volunteer
  • Eddie Williams and Huntingdon Band Students

I was reminded at conference when someone asked me what my goals for the organization were that it would be important to reflect on where we are on each outlined when I first took office. Some of the actions toward these goals are:

Build Bridges

  • Hosted an exhibit hall reception at the conference in an effort to bring AMEA members and our industry partners closer together in an informal setting. We will use the feedback we received to continue to refine and improve this event at future conferences.
  • Combined the Higher Ed and the Collegiate reception to encourage conversation and connections between these two related divisions.
  • Josh Meyer and Brenton Nash, Collegiate Division representatives, and their advisor, Ted Hoffman, presented about their recent fall summit to the Past Presidents Luncheon.
  • The President’s Board met at AMEA to make suggestions and discuss the path of AMEA. Several vacant positions on the President’s Board were filled.
  • We have started discussions to possibly exhibit in the future at the Council for Leadership in Alabama Schools. More information and communication from our organization to the Principals organization is a positive for our membership.

Encourage and Support Teachers

  • President Elect Greg Gumina has taken on the role as our State Advocacy Chair and is challenged to keep us all updated on what is happening in the legislature and ways to move music education forward in our state.
  • During the conference, President-Elect Gumina and I visited with the division boards from AVA, ABA, AOA, Collegiates and Elementary/General Music. We encouraged each group to continue to be forward-thinking in their plans for their organization and suggested some events to give each division more visibility.

Plan for the Future

  • I have asked the President’s Board to review the description of each position and make adjustments to the procedures portion of our bylaws.
  • We hired a new Assistant Executive Director in Rusty Logan and his input and assistance has been invaluable.
  • In hiring Past President Carl Hancock as the webmaster and social media representative, we have laid the path for a website that is more functional already than we could have hoped for.  It is the virtual face of AMEA and will serve us for many years.
  • Lynn Tuttle spoke at the conference to our leadership breakfast about the implementation phase of ESSA and the potential positive impact of this law on music education.

Recognize and Encourage Success

  • We made adaptations to the awards to highlight the longevity of our members and presented the first of these awards at this year’s conference.

It is my hope you found the conference fulfilling and that AMEA is meeting your needs and the needs of your division.  If you ever have suggestions or ideas, please feel free to email me or any member of the governing board.  We are here to serve you and make the organization as strong, viable, and supportive for the current and future generations of Alabama music educators.

“The progress of the world depends almost entirely upon education.”  George Eastman

AMEA: An update on what has been happening since the last issue and all that we can expect for the coming months for AMEA

Susan Smith
I hope this note finds you all adjusting to your teaching schedule routine and enjoying brightening the lives of all you teach. My letter this month comes as an update on what has been happening since the last issue and all that we can expect for the coming months for AMEA. By now, I hope you have all seen our wonderful newly updated website. Past President Carl Hancock has done a masterful job of designing, consolidating and updating our AMEA website. We want this to be a source of current information and research for all members. You can reach any of the executive board through the site if you have questions or concerns.

It has been inspiring to watch the work and dedication of your AMEA Executive Board in the last 2 months. When the schedule came out for a round of meetings across the state for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Community Engagement Tour highlighting the benefits to Alabama public school students and professionals as well as detail how ESSA will complement Alabama’s Plan 2020, your division Presidents, Vice Presidents and other leadership jumped in to represent you at each of the meetings. Their attendance and the questions they asked have moved the committee to action regarding music and the arts having a place at the table in the discussion on the structure of how to incorporate the support of the arts in our state. I appreciate their commitment to AMEA and the cause for music education.

Meetings and attendees:
August 9 Montgomery Meeting – Susan Smith and Andy Meadows
August 16 Auburn Meeting – Carla Gallahan and Phil Wilson
August 18 Shelby County Schools – Becky Halliday, Ted Hoffman
August 23 Birmingham City Schools – Greg Gumina, Sam Nordlund
August 25 Mobile County Schools – Linda Byrd
September 6 Huntsville City Schools – Pat Stegall
September 13, Tuscaloosa – Carl Hancock, Josh Mayer, Ginny Coleman

I encourage every AMEA member to start a conversation with your principals and school board members about ESSA and what it means at the local level. Resources are available at Governor Bentleys website ( )and also the NAFME website ( updates/)

    From the Southern Division

– President Elect Greg Gumina, Executive Director Garry Taylor and I attended the Southern Division meeting in Atlanta and heard from each state on the activities of their MEAs. As well, we had training on the implementation of the new National Standards and the efforts of NAFME to encourage diversity in leadership and serving the needs of the membership. I have asked each division to encourage all members to become involved in our organizations to better reflect the makeup of our organization and students we serve.

Conference Update
The AMEA Professional Development Conference is an event we all look forward to as a time to reconnect with colleagues and to hear wonderful clinics and concerts. We are excited about our Keynote speaker Scott Lang who is not only a motivational speaker, but is the force behind the Be Part of the Music movement. Lynn Tuttle will join us as well for our Leadership Breakfast and FAME sessions. Lynn is the Senior Regulatory Policy Advisor for the National Association for Music Education and will give us all insight into the progress of ESSA and how we can make an impact at the local level.

Our Intercollegiate Band will be conducted by Dr. John Locke, conductor of the University of North Carolina Greensboro Wind Ensemble. Working to support and strengthen our ties to the music industry community, AMEA has scheduled a reception on Thursday evening in the Exhibits from 9-10:30 with entertainment from 151st National Guard Jazz Combo. We hope this will give our members and vendors additional time to visit and make connections. Remember to register early and reach out to other members to do the same.
Due to responsibilities associated with running for local office, our newly appointed Assistant Executive Director, Mildred Lanier has had to step down. The AMEA board approved her replacement, Dr. Rusty Logan. We look forward to working with Dr. Logan in this role and know he will hit the ground running in supporting our Executive Director Garry Taylor and our Professional Development Conference!

Remember over the next few weeks to be a little selfish as teachers tend to think of everyone around them and not take care of themselves. We exist as an organization to encourage educators, so please let us know what we can do to support you in your mission to enrich the lives of your students each day.

AMEA: Continuing to move forward while embracing our history and traditions

Susan Smith
I am honored to write my first article for the Ala Breve as the President of AMEA. It is an honor and privilege to serve and support those who have chosen teaching music as their life’s work. I would like to share some of the goals for the next two years of our organization and hope you will join me in our forward movement while embracing our history and traditions.

1. Build Bridges
As music teachers we are often the only arts teacher in our building or department, so it is vital to the longevity of our careers and discipline that we reach to other divisions for additional support and shared resources. While President, I hope to reinforce these connections between divisions and teachers as well as our community at large. Our discipline is supported by music vendors for the resources we need to teach students in our classrooms. We rely on our music industry colleagues to make our conferences and student events possible. Our relationships with those partners is very important to the success AMEA. We will look to embrace, expand and reinforce those partnerships over the coming years.

2. Encourage and Support Teachers
In a world where arts educators and teachers in general seem to be lacking support and resources for continuing development, it is my hope we will work to encourage and support new and veteran teachers. I will work to reach and serve the under- represented populations of AMEA and support the involvement of all. Leadership potential identification and mentoring are an important part of what our organization can bring to our community at large. We all want AMEA to be vital and robust in its mission. I believe we will succeed with involvement from a variety of people from every size and type of school.

3. Plan for the Future
We will continue to review and revise our documents, bylaws, and procedures for maximum efficiency and transparency as we build upon the strong foundation of our organization. We will update our strategic plan every two years revisiting our path as an organization. We have moved forward with the plans to hire an Assistant Executive Director. We welcome Mildred Lanier in this position after an exhaustive search and know she will bring much to the organization. I really don’t think any of us can fully appreciate what Garry Taylor does for AMEA and I am pleased we will be able to give him the support needed to make the conference run smoothly. I have also called on each division to continue to look past “what we have always done” to “what we would like our organizations to look like and be able to do?”

4. Recognize and Encourage Success
Our state has wonderful music teachers who make an impact on our communities, schools, and students. I believe it is the responsibility of AMEA to promote and recognize those in our organization for their longevity and those who are making an impact on our discipline on a regional and national level. We will refine our awards for membership to better highlight those who have served as well as add awards for programs and teachers who strive to the highest levels of performance and education.

In June, the AMEA leadership team traveled to Washington DC for the NAfME Hill Day and National Assembly June 22 – 25, 2016. Greg Gumina, Sara Womack, Savannah Smith, Latrice Green, and I met with representatives from Senator Shelby’s and Senator Sessions’ offices as well as those from Congresswoman Roby, Congresswoman Sewell and Congressman Gary Powell. It is very moving to have the chance to come together with other state MEA organizations to meet with our elected officials and tell them about the great things music teachers do for the students of Alabama.

One of the main items discussed with the legislators was the funding of the Every Child Succeeds Act and how important it was for all students in our state. For the first time, funds will be available through your localities for music education as a part of a well- rounded education. It is very important that each of us gets involved with the decisions on funding at the local school board level.

In summary, one of the wonderful parts of beginning a new school year is the clean slate we start with literally and figuratively. We can change the things we thought ineffective from the previous year and we can highlight what we have found to be successful teaching tools. I hope you will try to find a mentor teacher to help if you are new to the profession. If you are experienced, I hope you will take the time to help a younger teacher. We have the best jobs in the best country in the world. Take time to make a positive impact on other teachers as well as your students. Any and all suggestions for AMEA are appreciated and encouraged. Please feel free to email any of the board if we can help you in any way.

Have a great year!


We have accomplished so much by doing something different and taking risks.

carl b hancockDear Friends and Colleagues,

With this final column, I want to take a moment to say thank you to all of you for your support and trust. I will be forever grateful for the opportunities you gave me to serve––beginning as Collegiate Advisor in 2008, Research Chair in 2010, President-elect in 2012, and finally, in 2014, as the 36th President of the Alabama Music Educators Association. I have thoroughly enjoyed serving the AMEA and I am looking forward to what the future has in store for our great organization as I take on my next role as immediate past president.

Since I first took office, I have been surrounded by a remarkable group of dedicated educators who have worked tirelessly in their support of music education and I want to specifically recognize the members of the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 Governing Boards who were there with me every step of the way. It has been a genuine pleasure serving with Rusty Courson, Stacy Daniels, Carl Davis, Becky Lightfoot, Carla Gallahan, Karla Hodges, Ted Hoffman, Mike Holmes, Cliff Huckabee, Andy Meadows, Sarah Schrader, Susan Smith, Pat Stegall, Garry Taylor, Thad Walker, Sara Womack, and Jim Zingara. I have come to believe that there isn’t another state president in NAfME who has received as much support as I have nor has been as proud as I am. Many of the initiatives we undertook would have been impossible without their faithful service to our organization. Thank you to every board member for putting your time, talent, and energy into achieving these milestones.

Across the past two years our annual conference has headed into new waters, growing into a vibrant professional development experience. Thank you to every presenter, audience member, performer, business member, and volunteer. Through your participation, we brought together nationally recognized clinicians, invited engaging keynote speakers, and booked world-class performers to truly add more “professional” to our professional development. Moreover, your faith in us bolstered the governing board’s creativity, which we channeled into building collaborations with music businesses, expanding our conference offerings, and branding our conference to compliment the artistry of music and emphasize the professional growth experienced by our members.

Beginning with goals we set back in 2014, AMEA has opened up new pathways and positioned itself to make meaningful changes in how we advocate for music education, run our organization, serve our members, and, most importantly, teach our students. Thank you to the entire membership for embracing this growth. Achieving these milestones allowed us to explore new options and experiment with different approaches. Accomplishing so much together in just a few years is a direct result of your faithful service to the music educators of Alabama and our organization.

Finally, to our Executive Director and Ala Breve Editor, Garry Taylor. Thank you for managing the AMEA so it continues to be a strong organization that is a model for others. I was so fortunate to have your experience and wisdom guiding me along the way.

In closing, I am very optimistic about the future of the Alabama Music Educators Association. It is an exciting time for our association. We have accomplished so much and made many memories together by doing something different and taking risks. I am truly honored to call you my friends and colleagues. On June 1, Susan Smith will take office and her presidency will be met with great enthusiasm from all music educators in Alabama, but especially from those of us who have been members of the AMEA for many years. I hope you will join me for what I know will be an exciting new direction for our organization.

All the best,
Carl B. Hancock,
President Alabama Music Educators Association

Resolute to put more professional into professional development.

carl b hancockDear Friends and Colleagues,

It’s hard for me to contain my enthusiasm for our upcoming Professional Development Conference. Since joining the National Association for Music Education as a college student 27 years ago, I’ve participated in conferences as a learner, panelist, clinician, and speaker. Whatever my role, I leave conferences primed, connected, and knowledgeable of the remarkable strides our profession has made. So, my excitement for the 2016 AMEA Professional Development Conference (January 21-22, 2016, in Montgomery, Alabama) should not come as a surprise, especially in my current role as president. So, let’s talk about our upcoming conference!

2015 AMEA Conference

Highlights of the 2016 Professional Development Conference

“We are all teachers, we are all students!”

Alabama’s Music Educators are renowned for participating in professional development. Whether attending organized clinics or participating in informal dialog, we have a thirst for learning and collegiality, which is why, at our 2016 conference, we are inviting everyone to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the Alabama Music Educators Association! There has never been a better time to reach out to our colleagues, especially those who have not attended the conference in a while. The AMEA has changed significantly, and the 2016 conference illuminates the future of our organization and honors past accomplishments.

Professional Performances. The world-renowned professional brass quintet, the Boston Brass, will headline our conference. On Thursday (January 21), they will dazzle us with an opening-night concert for all registered conference attendees. Additional tickets will be available to schools and other organizations. On Friday (January 22), they will present a clinic and return to the stage as guest performers with the Oak Mountain High School Band and Alabama Wind Ensemble. Hosting our first world-class professional ensemble at our state conference is a testament to the growth of our organization. I hope you will join me in welcoming the Boston Brass to Montgomery.

Keynote Speakers. By your request, we invited two keynote speakers. On Thursday morning, you will experience the entertaining insights of the legendary “Dr. Tim” Lautzenheiser. If you have ever had even a moment of doubt about being a music educator or need a reminder of the joys of teaching music, he can easily reignite your passion and purpose. On Friday morning, political and advocacy guru, Christopher Woodside, from the National Association for Music Education, will “walk us through” the brilliance of NAfME’s Broader Minded™ music advocacy campaign and present an update on our progress with lawmakers in Washington DC.

New Music. Our publisher-sponsored reading band will return this year under the baton of composer Brian Balmages, who will also meet with winners of our Young Composers Competition and present a session on selecting literature for bands and orchestras. Speaking of excitement, I am excited to announce that the AOA arranged for a publisher-sponsored reading orchestra, which will be conducted by noted composer, pianist, actress, and conductor Soon Hee-Newbold.

Featured Clinicians. In addition to these spotlights, our division presidents invited clinicians from across the country to participate in our conference. Joining us this year are Dr. Jeffrey Benson, Director of Choral Activities at San José State University; renowned Canadian music specialist, Denise Gagné; and former AMEA President and distinguished educator, Becky Rodgers Warren.

This provides a small snapshot of what the 2016 AMEA conference has to offer. Many of our friends and colleagues are preparing sessions and performances that will make you proud to be a music educator. I encourage you to take a moment to read the conference schedule in this issue and make plans to attend the 2016 Professional Development Conference. Online registration is conveniently located on our website. Visit for more information.

For your consideration…a new AMEA position, the Assistant Executive Director.

As I peruse this issue of the Ala Breve, I cannot help but feel a sense of pride about the pages stitched together especially for you, the committed music educators of Alabama. From the stimulating original articles toinformative division announcements to the exciting conference preview, every page represents our values and aspirations as an organization. The quarterly publication of the Ala Breve is a part of our culture and heritage. Not long ago, I decided to read past issues from as far back as 1984, and it is clear to me that throughout our journey as a profession, the Ala Breve has been there to chronicle our progress and forecast upcoming challenges. It is a valuable resource that can be used to inform our present-day decisions. When you think about the hours of labor that go into producing the pages found in just one issue of the Ala Breve, it is easy to overlook the fact that this quality publication has been compiled by one person, our Executive Director and Editor, Garry Taylor.

Background. Our association has not always enjoyed the privilege of a dedicated Executive. In the 1980s, the AMEA struggled with the notion that we needed an employee to assist our organization; after all, music teachers are renowned for putting in extra hours. At the time, we were a small association struggling with the growing pains of exploding membership and for superior professional development. Also, we were directly involved in significant legislative efforts in Montgomery. Our forbearers realized that while our elected AMEA officers were excellent leaders, as full-time educators, they needed someone to attend to the daily needs of our association in order to truly achieve the organization’s goals. So, they consulted with other state music education organizations across the country, especially in the South, and found kindred groups that were experiencing similar growing pains. Many decided to employ a staff dedicated to carrying out logistical demands. Many more decided to employ a full-time executive manager. After much debate, and assurances from the AMEA leadership, we decided to employ a part-time Executive Secretary, which, in the 1990s, transformed into our present-day, part-time, position known as the Executive Director. The ED serves to carry out the duties assigned by the Governing Board, facilitates the preparation of our professional development conference, administers the business affairs of our organization, and serves as the “go-to” person for all members of our association.

We are a large and active association. Today, the AMEA is a celebrated and much larger organization than it was in the 1980s. According to active member data from NAfME, seven out of every ten Alabama music teachers hold membership, which means we have the third highest percentage of market penetration of all NAfME state affiliates (70%)! In addition, a rank order of active NAfME members across the US indicates we are the 19th largest state music education organization. When we look at indicators compiled by the AMEA, we see that over the past five years, our professional development conference has grown at an astonishing rate. Last year, our conference was the largest we have ever hosted as an organization with more performing groups, sessions, vendors, and attendees than previously recorded. And yet, all of this growth is managed by one incredibly competent person, our Executive Director, Garry Taylor.

Assessment of Executive Director workload. A couple of months ago, the Governing Board asked the ED to log everything he does for the AMEA, and needless to say, the list of daily tasks and responsibilities we saw was overwhelming. From negotiating contracts with vendors, to editing our state journal, to maintaining records for our organization, to organizing our annual in-service conference, to coordinating matters with the national office, to maintaining membership records, to implementing the initiatives developed by the governing board, the ED is a one-person administrative office, public-relations machine, and so on. Historically, the AMEA Executive Director was considered a part-time position, yet present-day demands reveal the position carries full-time responsibilities. When I spoke with the leaders of other state music education organizations, many were shocked to learn we accomplished so much without a dedicated staff.

The problem and proposed solution. So, we have a problem. And it is one that is easy to fix, but it will require some courage and your support. Here is the problem. Each of our divisions has a president and a president-elect, which in my mind, is a healthy redundancy. Interestingly, the most important managerial position in our association, the Executive Director, does not have a comparable backup to rely on. After talking with the Governing Board, we concluded that we need an “understudy” who can assist in the management of our association and serve as a “backup” in case of an emergency. We also need to provide the ED with additional support to facilitate the continued growth of our Association. In the October issue of the Ala Breve is a description of our proposed Assistant Executive Director position and associated constitutional amendments. As an organization, we will vote on these additions to the constitution at the 2016 AMEA Professional Development Conference. I think you will agree that this proposal is proactive and designed to ensure the stability of our organization. It is exciting to think about how far we’ve come as an organization. Please feel free to contact me with your thoughts, ideas, feedback, and suggestions. I can be reached at 205-657-2624 or by email at


I want to thank you again for the opportunity to serve as your President. It brings me great pleasure to represent our association and music educators of our great state. I’m looking forward to seeing you in Montgomery!

Greetings and welcome back!

With the resonating sounds of the Million Dollar Band in the distance, singing voices in the halls, ringing of the Denny Chimes, friendly questions from new faces, and the smiling faces of old students popping in my office to say hello, it is easy to recognize the beginning of the school year is well underway in Tuscaloosa. If you are like me, the summer break has faded into a distant yet pleasant memory, and you are now immersed in setting goals, planning lessons, teaching students, and preparing for an exciting new year of music-making and learning.

I am always amazed at how uplifting summertime can be. It truly reinvigorates my passion for teaching. For those of you who know me well, come mid-August, I begin to look forward to the first day of classes and overtly express the same excitement I felt when I was a schoolboy. However, this time, as I take stock of the summer and last year, I am feeling excited about what the future will bring and simultaneously, very proud about our past. I am amazed to count how much we accomplished as an Association, especially in just the last couple of months. This summer was extremely productive for the AMEA. Members of the Governing Board worked for months planning an excellent year of professional growth and learning for you and your students, and I can’t wait to share some of it with you.
In June, the Governing Board met and welcomed our incoming board members and together we renewed our commitment to many of the initiatives we started in 2014. This year, we will attempt to complete the second phase of our strategic plan and ensure we pass as many milestones as possible. In essence, we will continue to connect with nationally recognized leaders, emphasize professional outreach, increase industry connections, fund special clinicians, and build our capacity for state-level advocacy by rebranding our organization and growing membership.

To achieve a substantial increase in membership, we pledged to seek out those music teachers who left the AMEA, restore their faith in our association, and encourage their return. As an example of our commitment to this goal, the AMEA will implement a concerted membership drive from now through January, which will be led by former AMEA President (2008-2010) and current Secretary/Treasurer Pat Stegall. He will have the help of Peter Daugherty from the NAfME office and assistance from volunteers throughout the state. We encourage you to take a moment and reach out to colleagues and let them know, the AMEA and NAfME is focused on meeting the needs of Alabama music teachers and their students. At the same time, we will seek out new teachers, whether new to the profession or new to our great state, and encourage them to join not just for the resources we can provide, but for the camaraderie and support. We need to stand together for music education in our schools and communicate a consistent message about the importance of music in the lives of our students. The old adage popularized by Helen Keller, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” certainly rings true when it comes to advocating for music. So, we will continue to work at recruiting new members, retaining current members, and inviting former members to take a second look at our organization.

We will also continue to tinker with our in-service conference, so we learn what is possible and needed to provide meaningful professional development for educators tasked with teaching music in the second decade of the 21st century. We are reaching out to the professional music community in a way that we’ve never attempted before by having the renowned professional brass quintet, The Boston Brass headline our in-service conference. And we have a few other “experiments” that we will try that I think will both inject more “professional” into our professional development. As my friend and colleague, Skip Snead sometimes likes to say, “stay-tuned.”

At the end of June, three members of our Governing Board and three of our state’s collegiate music educators traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in the NAfME Hill Day and National Leadership Assembly. Some of the many highlights from the trip include visiting the offices of both of our US Senators and four State Representatives on Capitol Hill. We shared a simple, yet profound message of advocacy for music education and discussed the importance of maintaining music and the arts as core academic subjects in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2015. By all accounts, our message was well-received.

Also, in June, we learned that five Alabama students were selected for the All-National Honor Ensembles to perform at the NAfME National Conference (October 25-28) in the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tennessee! These outstanding students were nominated by their directors and will join other fine musicians from across the US to form the All-National Concert Band or Mixed Choir. Selected students include Carrie Ciecierski (Dothan High School, Steve McLendon, director), Liam Remley (Shades Valley High School, David Allinder, director), Hannah Love (Saraland High School, Christine Breland, director) and Ben Cooper and Devan Payne (Austin High School, John Cooper, director). I hope you will join me in congratulating these students and their directors.

Finally, here is a glimpse of some of the plans we are working on for 2015-2016 and goals we surpassed this summer.

  1. President-elect, Susan Smith, is working on hosting our state’s first Alabama Music Education Advocacy Day in 2016.
  2. The Ala Breve will continue to invite music educators from across the US to write original articles for our journal. To date, we have published 23 original articles in our journal since beginning the initiative.
  3. Garry Taylor has helped increase Industry Membership in the AMEA to 22 members which is a 57% increase over figures from a year ago.
  4. The FJH Music Company Inc. will sponsor the AMEA Reading Band and support a top-notch clinician, Brian Balmages, to direct the group at our state conference in January 2016.
  5. The Governing Board passed a budget to extend the special clinician fund for the AVA, ABA, AOA, and Elementary/ General Music Division. Each group now has the opportunity to invite nationally recognized speakers to present at the 2016 In-Service Conference.
  6. The Governing Board secured support from Jupiter Band Instruments to help bring the Boston Brass to headline the 2016 In-Service Conference.
  7. Dr. Diane Orlofsky from Troy State University was appointed to serve as the 2015-2016 choral music reviewer for the Ala Breve.
  8. Mr. David Raney of Sparkman High School was appointed to serve as the Alabama TI:ME Representative. The Technology Institute for Music Education, also known as TI:ME, has expressed an interest in partnering with the AMEA.
  9. The AMEA website will be restructured, modernized, and rebuilt.
    The Outstanding Young Music Teacher Award was officially renamed the Edward H. Cleino Outstanding Young Music Teacher Award in honor of Ed‘s numerous contributions to the AMEA.

This is only a snapshot of the excellent work your AMEA Officers and Governing Board members have been doing this summer and I am certain their columns will highlight the leadership they bring to Alabama.

As you can tell, planning and preparations for the new year are well underway. As your President, I am looking forward to partnering with you to provide the best music education possible to students throughout Alabama. We are here to support you and I welcome your thoughts, ideas, and comments. I wish for you and your students a great new year.

Carl Hancock, President