Dear 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!
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 http://www.alabamamea.org 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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!