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