Getting the Most Out of Music Conferences… Suggestions for First-Time Attendees or New Teachers
Music conferences offer students as well as seasoned musicians a wealth of professional opportunities. They are motivating and help recharge your battery. They even help set future goals. Consider music conferences an essential component of your training and career…
Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one. – Malcolm Forbes
The greatest benefits of attending an academic or professional conference are the opportunities to build your network and increase your awareness of new trends happening in your area of interest. – Emad Rahim http://www.coloradotech.edu/resources/blogs/june-2013/professional-conference
Networking with others in the field, getting new and innovative ideas, self-reflection and re-thinking of previous methods, and improving communication skills are just a few of the ways professionals can grow and develop. – Conferences and Professional Development by the Grand Canyon University Center for Innovation in Research and Teaching https://cirt.gcu.edu/research/developmentresources/research_ready/presentationready/prof_develop
For professional networking, it is your “charge” to create multiple pathways to/from school administrators, HR managers and secretaries, music supervisors and department heads, and music teachers… and you – your skills, accomplishments, unique qualities, experience, education, and personality traits. – Paul K. Fox https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/networking-niceties/
Welcome to the annual state conference! For Pennsylvania Collegiate Music Education Association (PCMEA) members and soon-to-be-hired music educator prospects, this guide will help you get the most out of attending the 2017 Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) Spring Conference (and future professional development events).
Reasons to “drop everything” and attend an in-service conference:
- Conferences “grow” your professional network and opportunities for future collaboration.
- Conferences build your knowledge base: to hear about potential job openings, stay current in the field, learn new ideas, music literature, classroom materials, curriculum initiatives, research, technology, and unique approaches to problems, and to see “state-of-the-art” (“model”) performances of student and professional music ensembles.
- Conferences expand your resources.
- Conference motivate (a.k.a. “recharge batteries”) and help you plan future goals.
People in academics cultivate exceptional resources—and they’re excited to share them with like-minded colleagues. During the conference, I had an opportunity to test out new technology, review upcoming publications, share teaching tools and techniques and obtain samples of textbooks, software and mobile applications. Conferences are full of people promoting new ideas, vendors selling new products, and consultants teaching new methodologies. I always take advantage of this opportunity to fill up my academic tool-shed with new techniques and technology to improve my career. – Emad Rahim
The annual PMEA Spring Conference will be held on April 19-22, 2017 at the Erie Bayfront Convention Center. These sessions may be “perfect for PCMEA!”
- Opening General Session with Tim Lautzenheiser Thursday 8:30 a.m.
- PCMEA meetings Thursday 10:30 a.m. and Friday 11:15 a.m.
- Getting the Most Out of Your Student Teaching Experience Thursday 1:30 p.m.
- Cracking the Graduate School Code: When, Where, Why, How, & How Much Thursday 3 p.m.
- Starting with the End in Mind – or – You’ve Got Four Years, Use Them Wisely Thursday 4:30 p.m.
- Music Education & Gaming: Interdisciplinary Connections for the Classroom Friday 8:15 a.m.
- Ready for Hire! Interview Strategies to Land a Job Friday 9:45 a.m.
- Planning Strategies to Develop a Responsive Teaching Mindset Friday 2:15 p.m.
- Final General Session with NAfME Eastern Division President Scott Sheehan Friday 3:45 p.m.
For a complete conference schedule, consult PMEA News or this web-link: http://www.pmea.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/2017-PMEA-Annual-Conference-Schedule-for-Winter-News.pdf.
First things first! Prepare yourself in advance. Grab your winter or spring issue of PMEA News. Review the program of sessions which is usually laid out in chronological order and also by content strands (e.g. advocacy, choral, classroom music, collegiate, curriculum development/assessment, higher education research, instrumental, music technology, World Music, and special interest topics), as well as the list of keynote speakers, guest clinicians, showcase (music industry) demonstrations, association meetings (like PCMEA), and performances. Using an “old-fashioned” 20th century tool, mark up the conference schedule with two different colors of highlighter marking pens, first targeting “high interest” areas in yellow, and then “must attend” events in hot pink or other favorite color.
Next, download the PMEA Conference App (usually from Core-Apps.com). This is the 21st Century technique for setting up your conference schedule (“where to go and what to do”), reading the bios of the presenters, locating the session rooms and exhibit booths, finding out who is attending, taking and storing your notes, and learning about last minute changes. Here is the picture of the 2016 PMEA app:
More DO’s and DON’Ts for effective conference attendance:
- DON’T remain in your “comfort zone” by sitting exclusively with your friends or college buddies at every session and concert. DO socialize with your peers at meals, and DO attend meetings of your PCMEA. However, if you are trying to take advantage of networking opportunities, to get to know other professionals, possible job screeners, administrators, etc., DON’T just sit with people you know at every other event.
- DON’T focus exclusively on attending sessions or concerts in your specialty or most proficient areas, such as band if you’re a woodwind, brass or percussion major, orchestra if you are a string player, general music/choral if you are a vocalist or pianist. DO go to sessions that are not directly related to your major. You might be surprised at the connections you discover or the new interests that arise. Imagine “they” want to hire you next year as the next middle school jazz coach, HS marching band show designer, choreographer for the elementary musical, conductor of the string orchestra, teacher of AP music theory, etc. Could you select music for an elementary band (or choral) concert, create a bulletin board display for a middle school general music unit, set-up a composition project, or lead folk dancing at the kindergarten level?
- DO stay at (or near to) the hotel where the conference is being held… to see and DO more!
- Learn and DO the best practices of networking, personal branding, business card creation and distribution, and record-keeping of conference notes, job openings, and contact information. DO read my blog-post on Networking Niceties: The “How to Schmooze Guide” for Prospective Music Teachers at https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/networking-niceties/.
- DON’T be shy! A conference is no place for being timid or afraid to start up a discussion with a more experienced music teacher. PMEA is all about circulating and introducing yourself, exhibiting your “charming self,” exploring resources and who are the experts/leaders in music education, getting the “lay of the land,” and adding as many names and emails to your professional contact data base as possible. Of course, DO follow-up with anyone who suggests that there may be a future employment posting from their school district!
- DO attend both general sessions, one usually scheduled on Thursday morning and the other on Friday afternoon. These will feature the keynote speakers and a special performance or award presentation. Since it is free and another opportunity to network, DO attend the Saturday morning awards breakfast and general membership meeting.
- DON’T be the first person to leave a session, and definitely DON’T “hop around” from one clinic or concert to another. Many attendees consider leaving early disruptive and rude, and it does not allow you to get the “whole picture” of the presentation. DON’T run in and grab the handouts… they will not have much meaning unless you attend the entire one-hour workshop. DO interact with the clinicians and conductors. If someone gave a talk, introduce yourself and ask a thoughtful question on some issue about which you are curious or found interesting.
- DO attend (and participate in) at least one panel discussion, music reading workshop, and technology session. DO search for special sessions held for college students on interviewing and landing a job. DO visit the displays of the PMEA Research Forums and the Exhibits.
- DON’T expect to get a lot of sleep at the conference. DON’T miss the interesting concerts to attend at night as well as early morning breakfast meetings and evening receptions. But, whatever you do, DO have FUN at your first music teacher conference!
Actually, PMEA represents only one of a series of outstanding music education conferences offered to school music teachers. In addition, you should look at:
Hopefully, these tips on networking and taking advantage of the many professional benefits for attending an in-service conference will assist your successful pursuit for “landing” a job, discovering your own “calling” in the field of music education, and contributing a lifetime of meaningful work to our profession. See you in Erie!
Suggested Additional Readings:
- Caffarella, R. S., & Zinn, L. F. (1999). Professional development for faculty: A conceptual framework of barriers and supports. Innovative Higher Education, 23(4), 241-254.
- Guskey, T. R., & Huberman, M. (1995). Professional development in education: New paradigms and practices. Teachers College Press, 1234 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10027 (paperback: ISBN-0-8077-3425-X; clothbound: ISBN-0-8077-3426-8).
- Guskey, T. R. (2000). Evaluating professional development. Corwin Press.
- Snow-Gerono, J. L. (2005). Professional development in a culture of inquiry: PDS teachers identify the benefits of professional learning communities. Teaching and teacher education, 21(3), 241-256.
- Sunal, D. W., Hodges, J., Sunal, C. S., Whitaker, K. W., Freeman, L. M., Edwards, L., … & Odell, M. (2001). Teaching science in higher education: Faculty professional development and barriers to change. School Science and Mathematics, 101(5), 246-257.
© 2017 Paul K. Fox
Photo credits: saxophone 24youphotography, harpist Gerrit Prenger, and computer/music keyboard LeslieR at FreeImages.com