Opening Doors for All Students: 2019 National NAfME Conference

By Published On: September 21, 2020

The upcoming 2019 NAfME Conference will explore more ways to bring students music education!

The theme for the 2018 NAfME National Conference, held in Dallas, Texas, was “Amplify: Lead. Engage. Inspire,” and it drew an overwhelmingly positive response from its organizers, presenters, and attendees.

Anne Marie Fennell—NAfME Innovations Council Chair and General Music Council Member, and also a music educator and creative arts department chair at Mission Vista High School in Oceanside, California—led the Innovations strand of the conference. In an effort to promote student engagement in music-making, she says, “Presenters were asked to address character dispositions that support student-centered learning and music-making, and to also address the ‘how’ of teaching in order to encourage deep connections to music as students interact with their knowledge.” Fennell most enjoyed and was inspired by “the powerful and open conversations, honest dialogue, and individuals sharing their stories, ideas, as well as needs for support. It was such a collaborative environment that was empowered by the ideas and dialogue of so many amazing music educators. Our room became a safe space where people were willing to discuss and connect, as well as push back a bit.”

Alice Hammel, music education faculty member at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, mentions that she was “delighted that NAfME is now purposefully including Culturally Relevant Pedagogy and issues of diversity and equity in our conferences.” Hammel, who led the 2018 conference strand, “Amplify: Involvement,” says that its purpose “was to create a greater awareness of students who are African American in our public schools and to talk about students who live in poverty.”

She recalls the poignant moment in the conference when Jeffrey Murdock from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville discussed the struggles he had growing up in poverty as a young African American man, and the barriers he experienced before becoming a college professor. Hammel shares,

“It was moving to see participants begin to cry as they realized ways they could change who they are in the future for their students. I appreciated being reminded that there is an element of racism in all of us and an element of classism in all of us. We need to work against that to make sure we can see our students for who they really are!”

As if on cue, the theme for the 2019 National Conference is “Amplify the Future of Music: Opening Doors for All Students.” It will be held November 6–10, 2019, at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. Music educators, higher education researchers, music teacher educators, state leadership, preservice music educators, and others from across the country will gather to learn, network, converse, and collaborate.

According to Lynn M. Tuttle, NAfME Director of Public Policy, Research, and Professional Development, there are many pieces of the upcoming conference that she is excited to share with members. Similar to the 2018 event, Tuttle mentions, “the sessions offered at the 2019 conference will focus on themed content, allowing attendees to go more in-depth and deepen their understanding around big content areas in music education—everything from creativity (what is it and how do we allow for it in our performance-based classrooms?) to student engagement (how do we best engage students in our Standards-based learning environments?).” Tuttle announces that these content strands, which will be two days in length, will include the following themes to guide practice and collaboration:

  • Amplify: Creativity—How do we create a learning environment that supports student voice, creativity, collaboration, and choice, whether via composition, improvisation, in current ensembles, or other pathways for creative musical endeavors?
  • Amplify: Student Engagement—How do we engage all students daily within our classrooms and throughout our schools as they create, perform, respond, and connect to music?
  • Amplify: Instruction—How do we expand instructional practices to support student ownership, voice, choice, and assessment in Standards-based, high-quality music education?
  • Amplify: Access—How do we guarantee and expand access to music education for every student in our school sites and classrooms; this could involve parents, administration, and other outside connections.
  • Amplify: Community—How do we successfully create a musical community within our schools and/or beyond school walls in urban, rural, or suburban settings?

Tuttle affirms that the layout for the upcoming conference will resemble that of 2018. “A major highlight for me was how successful this conference design proved to be. Many participants loved that the strands were in place, as it allowed for a more thorough discussion and more thoughtful outcomes, including practical ones for the classroom, as well as planning time to discuss what to do next.”

Tuttle notes that there will be day-long learning experiences. She poses these questions to members: “Have you ever wondered about social-emotional learning, or how to incorporate songwriting into your classes, or how to start a ukulele program? Or a digital or hybrid music-performing class? These eight, day-long learning experiences will allow a teacher to dig in and learn a new instrument and how to administer a new program, or give a deeper understanding of a relevant topic. You’ll learn how to build out a curriculum for this new program in your school, with information on logistics, resources, and the necessary tech. And, finally, several of these tracks will allow you to showcase your new learning in a brief informance on the big stage at the end of the day.”

JJ Norman, Professional Development & Collegiate Programs Manager for NAfME, enthusiastically shares the right, day-long learning experiences.

  • Gospel Choir
  • Steel Drum
  • Ukulele
  • Composition in Ensembles
  • Digital and Hybrid Music
  • Liberation World Drumming
  • Social-Emotional Learning
  • Songwriting

“All eight will be offered in the course of the conference, with the first four tracks culminating in an informance at the end of the day,” notes Norman.

Poster sessions are also a highlight of the conference as an “Amplify: Inspiration Showcase.” “While poster sessions are well-known for our colleagues in higher education, we will have, for the second time, a poster session for K–12 educators to share what they know and what’s going well in their classrooms,” says Tuttle. Music educators are invited to showcase knowledge and research on three feet of table space, and the poster session will be paired with an afternoon reception.

“Combining again with our National Conference are our All-National Honor Ensembles (ANHE), which will include more than 600 of the top high school musicians from across the country,” says Kristen Rencher, Director of Development, Strategic Initiatives, and Student Programs for NAfME. This year’s ANHE conductors include Emily Threinen from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis-Saint Paul (Concert Band); Soo Han from the Baldwin Conservatory of Music in Berea, Ohio (Symphony Orchestra); Tesfa Wondemagegnehu from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota (Mixed Choir); Bill Swick from the Las Vegas Academy of the Arts in Nevada (Guitar Ensemble); and Todd Stoll from Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City (Jazz Ensemble). Scott Burstein of Music Will in Los Angeles, California, is scheduled to lead a new addition to the ensemble line-up: Modern Band.

Rencher notes that the conference week’s events “will conclude with the All-National Honor Ensembles concerts, both Saturday evening and Sunday morning. Both events will take place in the same convention space within the Gaylord Palms Resort, and students, parents, and directors will have easy access to our exhibit hall, which will include our third annual ANHE College Fair. Over the past two years, NAfME has been pleased to welcome more than 75 of the top colleges, universities, and conservatories to discuss how their institutions could be part of these elite students’ futures.”

In looking ahead to the 2019 conference, Tuttle says, “As a music educator, I think in terms of not only what I’ll see, but what I’ll hear.” At this year’s conference she promises that members will “hear colleagues learning new instruments and new teaching techniques to better reach today’s students; meaningful discussions about how we best engage our students and create better learning experiences in our classrooms; student compositions and how and why they compose; and performances from the All-National Honor Ensembles, as we celebrate student artistry under the leadership of outstanding guest conductors.

Attendance at the conference will allow participants to join in profound conversations and musical experiences with colleagues from across the country. It will be organized to allow attendees to dive deeply into the themes, and attend day-long experience tracks to immerse themselves in new musical programs to bring back to their schools. Tuttle notes that this type of learning “is what many administrators are asking for from their teachers.” In addition, there are receptions planned throughout the conference period, allowing ample time for networking, music-making, and collaborating with colleagues. “These range from a jam session to a drum circle to the less formal performances that are part of the day-long learning experiences,” remarks Tuttle.

Fennell is also helping plan and build the 2019 conference as a member of the Professional Development Committee. She looks forward to this year’s conference and shares,

“I believe growth and expansion occurs in individuals when people can find a glimpse of themselves within new possibilities, while they reflect on their current processes and practice. In education, change is the only constant, and as music educators we get to be a part of this expansive growth to engage all learners in music. How fortunate we are to be a part of this through music!”


Original Article on the NAfME website