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.
- President-elect, Susan Smith, is working on hosting our state’s first Alabama Music Education Advocacy Day in 2016.
- 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.
- Garry Taylor has helped increase Industry Membership in the AMEA to 22 members which is a 57% increase over figures from a year ago.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Governing Board secured support from Jupiter Band Instruments to help bring the Boston Brass to headline the 2016 In-Service Conference.
- Dr. Diane Orlofsky from Troy State University was appointed to serve as the 2015-2016 choral music reviewer for the Ala Breve.
- 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.
- 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