Giving Back to the Association

A Pep Talk for Teachers to Become “Team Members!”

I found myself this past Monday morning with a few extra minutes checking my almost empty “to-do” list and, with the exception of planning to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers football game and the endless chore of raking leaves in my yard (I immediately rejected the latter), I discovered I had very few professional or personal priorities to focus on this week! Wow! Some additional “free time!” Shh… don’t tell anyone!

Down time? As I mentioned in a previous blog-post, since the summer, things had been a little hectic for “this retiree.” When I accepted the position of “admin” to the marching band of the school from where I retired, I discovered how fast we can fill up our schedules with meetings, rehearsals, and performances… to the point that it is hard to imagine how I could possibly have done all of this unless I retired from the regular job! My wife jokingly said, “Those were the days!” (perhaps a little unsympathetically?) as she watched me takeoff for band camp, parent salute nights, late night away football games, etc., while she remained cozy at home. “Been there. Done that! Not anymore!”

Only one professional association got me through more than five decades in music education and 35+ years of full-time directing, equipping me to handle the twists and turns of an ever-changing career (e.g., becoming a choral director even though I had never sang in a high school or college choir), and even attending music festivals as a viola and tuba student for four years in the Penn Hills school district. Who do I credit for giving me this “life force,” “teacher chops,” and music mastery? PMEA. We are so fortunate to have this priceless “collaboration of our colleagues,” numerous resources for the benefit of our own professional development, and services we provide to our music students. Cut me and I bleed PMEA blue!

How Are YOU Feeling?

This blog’s “call to action” is necessary because of the turmoil the pandemic has left the arts education community, new school health and safety mandates, re-prioritization of district resources (in some places away from the arts in spite of the need for more not less social emotional learning), reports of the drop in music participant enrollments, decrease in membership renewals, and teacher shortages.

The crush of COVID-19 and all of the program delays, suspensions, (and hopefully not) permanent losses have made this one of the most challenging times I can ever recall. The only way we can get through this is “together…” and frankly, “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem!” This is NO TIME to let your membership and involvement lapse! PMEA and other professional music education organizations (like NAfME, ACDA, ASTA) need your “dedication to the cause,” willingness to help “the team” and one other,  and active participation.

Collegiate members, full active members, and retired members – all of us joining forces – can truly “make a difference!” No matter how busy or stressed you are and how much you feel you are “slugging it out in the trenches” alone, we all need to become partners and devote time for and dedication to the associations we are blessed to have right now that support music educators in the Commonwealth, the nation, and the profession.

The Essential Role of Associations

It does not matter which profession you have chosen! You NEED an ASSOCIATION!

Google English Dictionary provided by Oxford Languages

The architects may have defined “this essential bond” best:

Membership in the relevant professional organization is one of the things that separates a profession from a conventional job. It is a key element that defines a professional. Membership in one’s professional organization is expected of all professionals. It is important to support the advancement of one’s profession, and becoming a member of the professional organization is a part of that advancement.

Involvement with a professional society will afford the participant an opportunity to network with other colleagues in industry and practice. Making connections with others who have similar interests reinforces why one has chosen this career. It enables new professionals to associate with senior members of the profession and learn from them. Joining a professional organization is critical in keeping abreast of the latest knowledge and practices locally, regionally, and globally. It helps the professional to stay abreast of current issues and opportunities and will also assist in personal advancement for the member who becomes involved.

Many professional organizations offer continuing education, seminars, and lectures along with other opportunities for learning. An active participant will have the opportunity to serve in professional development. Working with people outside of one’s own firm and volunteering will build leadership skills. Opportunities for working with the community for the betterment of society and the local economy will be available. There will be possibilities for making real contributions to the human condition through projects the professional organization may take on as a part of giving back to the community. There are events that will call for public speaking skills and professional visibility which will assist in moving one’s career to another level by connecting with other professions and local leaders in the area. The profession will benefit from members’ service and the members will be rewarded in return by such things as personal fulfillment, professional enrichment, and building a stronger resume as a result.

Further definition of the professional responsibilities and ethical practices will come in part from the professional organization. It is a central core for regulation, education, revitalization, networking and service. Joining a professional organization provides occasions and experiences to renew one’s enthusiasm for the practice of interior design. The interaction can be both inspirational and enlightening. Being a member of a professional organization is a symbiotic relationship between the organization and the member that will benefit them both.

Alabama Board for Registered Interior Designers

My “top-ten” benefits for membership in a professional association like PMEA are:

  1. Development and sharing of the standards and best practices of the profession
  2. Student festivals and music performance assessments
  3. Professional development and career advancement opportunities: workshops, conferences, and publications
  4. Leadership training
  5. Collaborative projects such as health and wellness seminars, ethics training, library of online resources, etc.
  6. Networking opportunities
  7. Models and resources for curriculum writing
  8. Coaching and mentoring resources
  9. Resources in job hunting and interviewing techniques
  10. Advocacy of music education and “a voice” (more political “clout”) in defining future government public policy

So, What’s in it for Me?

Review a few of the synonyms of “association” mentioned above: “alliance,” “consortium,” “coalition,” “connection,” etc. I am sure you’ve heard the saying: “TEAM stands for Together Everyone Achieves More.” Or, to quote the philosopher Aristotle: “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

The easiest way for me to show the value of joining PMEA and becoming more active, engaged, and successful in your teaching assignment (no matter what the primary specialty – general music, vocal, band, strings, jazz, music theory, technology, etc) is to take a snapshot of the benefits displayed on the www.pmea.net website. Why try to reinvent the wheel? You might be surprised the extent of the HELP that is available just around the corner! Go ahead… click away! Take a peek at what you may be missing!

On a personal note, PMEA has provided me the insight, inspiration, and opportunities for substantial career growth, “places to go and people to meet” to fill-in-the-gaps of the skill training I may have felt were missing, for example methods and media for teaching a high school choral program for more than 16 years and directing/producing 37+ musicals. In addition, PMEA and NAfME have been the sole institutions that I have turned to for more than 50 years for their sponsorship of choral and orchestral music festivals and other enrichment that have provided my students new and highly motivating musical challenges and countless state-of-the-art once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

So now, reflect on the title of this blog! It is essential to give back to our association – to help it achieve its mission: “to advance comprehensive and innovative music education for all students through quality teaching, rigorous learning, and meaningful music engagement.” We’re all in this together, and together we can make it better! Slide #6 at the bottom of the retired members’ webpage proposes what PMEA needs from all members (not just retirees):

The number one thing you can do for ANY association is to pay your annual dues, attend its meetings, be active and HELP OUT! In return, PMEA can assist you in finding and sustaining your passions! What are you waiting for? If you have not renewed for the 2021-2022 year, please visit this PMEA membership webpage.

PKF

© 2021 Paul K. Fox

Pictures from Pixabay.com by artist Augusto Ordóñez

The Future of Music Education

Spring 2020 Final Lecture to the Music Education Graduate Students

by Rich Victor, PMEA Past State President and Adjunct Instructor for the University at Buffalo Graduate School Online

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Originally posted in the Facebook group PLAN: The PA Leadership Advocacy Network

 

This course, “Supervision of Music Learning Programs,” was focused on programs as they existed before this year. Obviously, some things have changed.

What has changed and what has stayed the same? To answer that question let’s take another look at this graphic from Unit 4.

Rich Victor Decision Making Process

All decisions should flow from the mission statement. That should not change.

As you discovered, most school district mission statements focus on ideals such as “success, life-long learning, and becoming responsible citizens in the community.” An effective music department mission statement will be in alignment with the stated district mission. It will inform the administration and the community how the study of music helps the district achieve their stated mission through the skills and knowledge children learn in music. It also explains what children would lose if the subject were not offered because no other discipline is available in the school district where children can learn those skills and knowledge as well as in music classes.

The school mission and the department mission define the WHY.

Victor3Once the WHY has been determined, then the district must determine the WHAT. WHAT learning activities need to be offered to the students in the district in order to help them achieve the desired outcomes stated in the mission? The answer to that question should help determine the curriculum for music.

The content for the music curriculum is determined partially by the district and department missions, partially by state mandated Arts Standards, partially by local school district inter-disciplinary curriculum requirements, and partially by the music department’s desire to provide each child with a comprehensive and high-quality music education based on National Standards.

The outcomes from those learning activities – the WHAT – should not change.

In pre-COVID-19 times, the next decision would be to determine how much time is needed for students to master the curriculum and succeed in their activities. How many years will each facet of that curriculum require? How many hours of instruction should be allocated in each year and WHEN should that time be scheduled in order to provide the maximum number of learning opportunities for each child?

The WHEN might stay synchronous or change to asynchronous instruction. The number of instructional hours provided to each teacher and each subject may need to be flexible. That is yet to be determined and we should prepare for all possibilities. However, keep in mind that the WHEN should not alter the WHAT.

Once it is decided how many hours of instruction should be allocated annually and when Victor2those hours would be scheduled, then the district must figure out exactly how many teachers will be needed to deliver that instruction and what qualifications those teachers should possess. The “WHO” part of the process – the staffing piece of the puzzle – should still be driven by the needs of the curriculum and should not change.

It will be the HOW and WHERE parts of this process where the largest changes will occur.

Obviously, the decision WHERE teachers and students will be in the fall will impact HOW music will be taught and what equipment and materials can be used for learning activities.

Facilities in school buildings must be adapted to provide appropriate space for instructional activities to take place and to conveniently store all of the materials and equipment used in those activities while following whatever social distancing protocols and approved procedures for safely handling musical materials are adopted. The WHERE may continue to be the student’s home or a combination of school and distance learning. Once again, we need to prepare for all possibilities.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that the outcomes of the K-12 music curriculum – the WHAT – should not change. Teachers need to keep “the end in mind” rather than just focusing in on their own period of time with each student. Then, following the principles of Understanding by Design, K-12 music staff must work as a team to create appropriate learning activities that are designed to help each student make progress through each grade and ultimately achieve the specific learning outcomes Victor1of the K-12 music program using the WHEN, WHO, HOW and WHERE pieces that we will have to work with.

As my friend and colleague Bob Morrison said in a recent presentation “Change the HOW not the WHAT!”

Yes, it will be challenging. The challenges caused by these changes may appear to be daunting at first, but they are not insurmountable!

Fortunately, there are some great thinkers in our profession who are already coming up with ideas to make the best of the situation for both classroom and performance teachers. Even if you are the only music teacher in your school district – you are NOT alone! Wonderful ideas for solutions to these challenges can be found in social media and through webinars.

The most important thing to know at this time is that discussions are occurring right now in every school district throughout the country. When students might return to school, and how classes might be scheduled will be determined soon. You must be proactive and become part of that decision-making process BEFORE the decisions are made! Be at the table so that decisions affecting music education in your district happen WITH you and not TO you.

The future of music education is in YOUR hands. It will be what you make it. Good luck and keep in touch!

Editor’s note: As a follow-up to Rich Victor’s article, check out these PMEA webpages:

 

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About the Guest Blogger

Victor0Richard Victor is currently Adjunct Instructor for the University at Buffalo Graduate School Online.

Richard Victor had a 37-year career as State College Area High School Band Director. In 1987, he was also appointed to the position of Coordinator of Music for the State College Area School District. He was President of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) from 2000-2002 and served as its Advocacy Chair. He was President of the PA Unit of the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE) from 1989-1993, the PMEA All-State Jazz Coordinator and PMEA News Jazz Editor from 1993-1998, and chair for the NAfME Council for Jazz Education from 2014-2018. He has also served on the advisory board for the NAfME Teaching Music magazine and held the office of President of the Penn State Alumni Blue Band Association. Other professional memberships include Phi Beta Mu and The Gordon Institute for Music Learning (GIML).

Mr. Victor has been a guest conductor and adjudicator for concert band and jazz events in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, and currently serves as an instrumental adjudicator for Music in the Parks. He frequently provides services as a clinician, consultant, and/or featured speaker for school districts and music events throughout Pennsylvania. He has presented sessions at five NAfME (formerly MENC) national conferences, three NAfME Eastern Division conferences, and the 2008 Americans for the Arts National Convention. He also has been a presenter for six different MEA state conferences, three JEN National Conferences, and three International Conferences on Music Learning Theory.

 

Goals for the Musical Road to Success

Photo credit: FreeImages.com, photographer Matt Hains

Making mature and meaningful decisions to plan personal practice

As the school concert season draws to a close and summer is almost upon us, now is the perfect time to reflect on a little musical goal-setting, complete a personal inventory and needs assessment (in what areas do I need help?), foxsfiresidesprioritize what’s the most important, and define several new “practice plans.”

Do you recall a cartoon with Lucy van Pelt bossing Charlie Brown around and handing him his own very long list of New Year’s resolutions? Except for your parents and the music teachers who know YOU, it isn’t usually effective for someone else to pick your goals. (Of course, if you don’t listen to the suggestions from your music directors and private teachers, there’s a good chance you will never improve!) Sitting around doing nothing, accepting things as they are now, and randomly floating from one task to another accidentally “making music” without foresight or planning are not likely to work. Inattention and osmosis are slow ways to achieve anything in life. Obviously, you must be motivated, ambitious, focused, and committed to “whatever it takes” on the pathways towards self-improvement and musical mastery!

According to “goals experts” (such as the One Minute Manager book by Kenneth Blanchard and the Utah State University recommendations below), to create meaningful personal goals, they should:

  • Be written down (Take the time and post them in your room!);
  • Be specific (Keep it focused, simple, and to the point!);
  • Be concrete (Exactly what/how do you need to do?);
  • Be measurable (How do you know when you’ve succeeded?);
  • Be viewed and reviewed often (Look at them daily/weekly/monthly, and every time you practice!);
  • Be shared (Show them to your music teacher and/or parents/spouse!);
  • Be flexible and change as needed (Modify and adjust – set new goals!);
  • Have a time frame (When will these have to be completed?).

ALL students, parents, and teachers – CLICK ON THIS LINK! Download, print, and read Getting What You Want – How to Make Goals: https://www.usu.edu/asc/assistance/pdf/goal_setting.pdf

seriestoshare-logo-01Your practice should have well-defined goals. What do you want to learn as a musician? Are there particular pieces of music, styles, or technical skills you would like to be able to play? Knowing what you want to accomplish will help you decide what work is needed and assist defining specific learning targets. If you have a private teacher, he/she will automatically prescribe objectives for you, based on your present strengths and weaknesses. But if you desire to join the local youth symphony, participate in a music festival, play in a pit orchestra, perform solos or chamber music, become a conductor, help coach your peers, or want to improve a specific technical skill or general musicianship, make sure your teachers know it! They may be able to share warm-ups, strategies, or practice materials that will help you improve and expand your knowledge, technique, expressiveness, sight-reading and ear training.

Here are some goal-related questions to ask yourself (consider several of these):

  1. Have you signed up for the local band or string camp?
  2. Have you made arrangements to take a few lessons on your instrument or even on piano or music theory over the summer?
  3. What was the last method book you used? Did you finish it? How many pieces can you memorize from it?
  4. When was the last time you performed a solo or two and recorded yourself? Wouldn’t it be fun to video yourself playing a mini-recital and sending the DVD to your grandmother or grandfather?
  5. One of the greatest challenges in performance is sight reading. Can you pull-out a random piece of music (even something written for a different instrument) and play it straight through without stopping?
  6. Pick your greatest weakness or problem on the instrument. What needs your attention? New keys, rhythms, articulations?
  7. Ask your teacher what would be an appropriate exercise book. Can you define several new challenging goals in playing scales, arpeggios, other warm-ups, or études specifically geared for your instrument?
  8. For Western Pennsylvania residents, did you know the South Hills Junior Orchestra is always open to new instrumentalists? SHJO begins its Saturday practices a week after Labor Day (USCHS Band Room 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.). Everyone is welcome to play in 2-4 free-trial practices!

Take a trip to the South Hills Junior Orchestra website. Under “Resources,” check out the three sets of free “Series to Share…” additional “Fox’s Fireside” issues by Paul K. Fox, and “Music Enrichment Workshop” presentations by Donna Stark Fox.

PKF

© 2017 Paul K. Fox

This “Series to Share” is brought to you by… the Founding Directors of the South Hills Junior Orchestra (SHJO), “A Community Orchestra for All Ages” based in Western Pennsylvania. Feel free to download a printable copy and distribute to music students, parents, teachers, and fellow amateur musicians.

SHJO rehearses most Saturdays in the band room of the Upper St. Clair High School, 1825 McLaughlin Run Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15241. New members are always welcome! For more information, please go to www.shjo.org.