Welcome to the 2017-2018 school year!
It was wonderful to see so many music educators, each passionate about the arts, at the 2017 Illinois Music Education Conference in Peoria, Illinois. As I begin my term as your association President, I feel I must begin by thanking several individuals that have given so much to the ILMEA recently and over the years:
Deb Shofner, who recently retired from the Board of Directors in her role as Past President, dedicated many years of her life to ILMEA. Her tireless work on behalf of music students in Illinois transcended local, regional and state roles. Deb’s first introduction to ILMEA came as a student when in 1974 she was selected to perform with the District II Senior Band. From there she went on to become an All State musician herself in 1976 and 1977. Later, as a music educator, Deb volunteered to be the 1985 District XIII Junior Band Representative. Through the years Deb held multiple positions within the volunteer structure of ILMEA, eventually being elected Band Division President (2005) and later an Executive Officer (2011-2017). No matter the job, Deb gave selflessly of her time and talents for the betterment of ILMEA. I for one am going to miss her contributions to our Board of Directors but am pleased she’s only a phone call or email away.
Mark Corey has left some big shoes to fill and I feel terribly humbled to follow in his footsteps. I shared at the IMEC Opening Session my appreciation for Mark’s leadership and the way in which he willingly managed several major initiatives during his term as our President. As a long-time Board member himself and having served as a District President, Mark was sensitive to the fact that we had many policy alignment gaps across the nine districts and he was a tremendous leader in guiding the Board’s review and re-alignment process. I begin my two-year term as President very grateful to Mark for re-cementing the foundation of the association’s governing policies. I am very much looking forward to working closely with Mark on the Board as he transitions into the role of Past President.
The ILMEA Professional Staff, which is led by Darcy Nendza (Executive Director) and includes Lori Evenhouse (Programs Manager) and Emily Petway (Education Programs Manager), deserve a prolonged standing ovation for bringing the Illinois Music Education Conference to life! Words cannot adequately convey the appreciation we all feel for their tireless efforts and outstanding work. IMEC is one of the premiere Music Education Conferences in our nation and we have the stats to prove it: 10,000+ visited or attended IMEC in 2017; 125 Clinic and Demonstration Sessions; 35 Performance Sessions; 6 All-State Concerts; 1,600 participating students; 256 exhibit booths and 162 exhibitors! My deepest thanks to Darcy, Lori and Emily for making IMEC 2017 one for the ages!
And finally I would like to welcome John Currey back to the Board of Directors as our new President Elect. I have known John for many years; his musicianship and performances by his students have inspired me for decades. I am very excited to have John’s voice at the table and I look forward to collaborating with him on many exciting initiatives.
At the 2017 IMEC Opening Session, I shared five goals for the association as we move forward together in 2017 and 2018. Each of these goals is linked clearly to our corporate mission as an organization and I look forward to working alongside the other members of the Board in pursuing these initiatives over the next 22 months.
A Google Slides presentation of these goals may be accessed here:
Goal 1: Explore issues of inclusion and access within the broader landscape of Music Education
Music educators are carefully considering the way in which students from diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds access the arts in their schools. This calls us to examine the way in which teacher education programs cultivate and train future music educators and the way in which professional associations (like the ILMEA) build leadership capacity in a wide cross-section of teachers throughout our state.
It was an honor and a privilege to moderate a panel discussion at the 2017 IMEC that began to address issues of inclusion and access. It was clear from the standing room only capacity crowd that this is an important goal that merits our time and attention.
Goal 2: Think broadly about increased access to the musical arts through non-traditional pathways and develop specific resources to promote this growth within association membership
Prior to my election as your association President, I had the opportunity to serve the ILMEA Board for six years at the Junior/Senior General Music Division President. That work gave me an amazing opportunity to speak to and learn from many in our state who teach innovative general music curricula. We have, for years, observed and openly embraced general music offerings such as Class Guitar, Class Piano, Digital Music Composition, Music Theory and survey/history courses where music is the common denominator. But is there more? Are there other ways we can expand our reach as music educators in the schools? Would a Rock Band course of the 2010s be unlike the Stage Band course of the 1960s (that morphed into the school Jazz Band class that can be found in most high schools across the nation)? Are there other music ensembles outside our traditional bands, choirs and orchestras that could blossom if we were willing to explore their potential?
In some ways I believe this goal is linked peripherally to Goal #1. It is possible that expanded non-traditional pathways might lead to increased access and inclusion. This is just one assertion associated with this goal that I hope our Board of Directors will explore in the months to come.
Goal 3: Continue current advocacy initiatives and support emerging efforts to create a Fine Arts Graduation Requirement in Illinois
This goal really has two prongs, and one is much more broad and open to multiple interpretations than the other. We absolutely must continue the myriad of music education advocacy initiatives that ILMEA has embraced for many decades. We must view music education advocacy as a long relay race, rather than a short sprint. We must all be willing, when it is our turn, to take the advocacy baton and race hard. In truth, there will likely never be a finish line to reach; we continue running because we want to successfully pass the baton on to future generations of teachers who will share their artistic passion with a new generation of learners.
The second part of this goal is much more specific and truthfully, will be challenging to attain during my time as the association President. Convincing legislative decision makers to adopt a statewide Fine Arts Graduation Requirement will take a coordinated and prolonged effort on the part of many stakeholders and it will take time. But recent national developments with ESSA (www.ed.gov/essa) and the Illinois State Board of Education’s ESSA Plan (www.isbe.net/Documents/ESSAStatePlanforIllinois.pdf) as a signal that there is a certain open-mindedness to increased affirmation of Fine Arts courses in the development of the whole-child. And with that comes an opportunity for us to advocate for a graduation requirement that would ensure every Illinois student is given guaranteed access to arts education.
Goal 4: Consider engaging demographic consultants to study population trends in Illinois as a basis for providing specific data relative to growth options or boundary adjustments
Over the past two years the ILMEA Board of Directors has endeavored to align our policies and procedures so that students and teachers across the state function within the programs of the ILMEA with assured equity. As I have traveled across the state visiting various District Festivals or meeting with teachers in various school districts, I often hear educators assert that aligning our policy is complicated because of unique geographic parameters and increasing (or decreasing) population centers. Over the next several months the Board of Directors will consider the merits of engaging a demographer to study population trends in our current nine ILMEA districts. Having accurate and current data could prove very useful to the current Board and those who follow in the next 5 years. Again, this goal is tangentially related to Goal #1, which is related to inclusion and access for all Illinois learners.
Goal 5: Create meaningful professional development opportunities for the membership that promote the authentic inclusion of the Illinois Arts Learning Standards in music curricula
ILMEA offers a wide array of Professional Development opportunities. As an education association we are leaders in providing relevant learning opportunities to professional teachers throughout the State of Illinois. Over the past year the ILMEA has been a strong and informative voice in the conversations that have shaped the Illinois Arts Learning Standards (ials-dev.sitedev.space); as we move forward it is critical that our membership fully understand these standards and develop authentic curricula do deliver these standards to the music students in our schools.
As you can see, we have exciting work ahead of us! I am incredibly humbled and grateful to have been elected by the ILMEA membership to be the organization’s President and I look forward to serving on the Board of Directors, shoulder to shoulder, with many fine volunteers. I welcome your phone call or written correspondence at any time if I may be of assistance to you or your music program in any way.