Not long ago, I attended the National In-Service Conference of the National Association for Music Education in Dallas, Texas. This four-day event is an annual celebration that features a full range of presentations for music educators as well as national honor groups. If you have never been to a music educators association (MEA) conference, I heartily recommend it. Some of the guest speakers included Peter Boonschaft (Sound Innovations), Phillip Riggs (2016 Grammy Music Educator of the Year), John Feierabend (elementary music), and Warren Zanes (Rock and Roll Forever Foundation). Now, if you have not heard of some or all of these folks, it’s okay! Many music educators haven’t heard of our horn-heroes either!

The conference sessions covered everything from classroom management to new class resources, repertoire to rehearsal techniques, assessment to advocacy. I was particularly taken with two presentations. The first was a panel discussion by Athletes and the Arts, a group devoted to wellness, healthcare, and performance needs of performing artists, formed to “create opportunities for performing artists and sport athletes to access and benefit from the established research, training and education of the other discipline” (see athletesandthearts. com). The second was a session that featured information on a group called United Sound, a nonprofit organization “whose mission is to provide musical performance experiences for students with special needs through peer mentorship” (see unitedsound.org). Check them out!

The keynote speaker for the conference was Graham Hepburn, co-creator of Quaver Music, a popular elementary curriculum. His address had three major points, things we all know, that remind us why music and music education must remain integral to our education system, so our children have a chance to become well-rounded citizens. First, Music is Emotion. Unlike other subjects, music not only causes us to feel emotions, but our success in music is determined by our ability to convey emotions, to share them, to encourage others to feel them. Second, Music takes the Mundane and makes it Memorable. Hepburn’s examples included envisioning the shark attacks in the movie Jaws without the score, and reading the text to a famous Michael Jackson song without the music (without the music, would either one affect us – at all?). Finally, Music Lifts us up from our Current State. Guess what we sang together – yep, “Kumbaya!” As corny as it sounds, there was a palpable difference in the room when 1000 people sang that song in response to the venom and sludge of the past election season. I was one of many who were blubbering by the time he finished his intro and we started singing….

The human race is the only group of living things that intentionally make music (as opposed to noise). At our local, regional, and international symposia, we celebrate music with horns, and the ranges of thoughts and feelings connected to that music are both deep and wide.

Radegundis Tavares has put together a wonderful symposium for us this year - see ihs2017natal.wordpress.com. Come to Natal and celebrate oour music. Share the emotion, experience the mundane becoming memorable, and let the music lift you up.

Wishing you good chops,

jeff sig

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