As we wind down the hustle and bustle of performances, celebrations, and events that mark the time before Winter Break, it’s a perfect time to plan out some ways to connect with other music educators. I’ve found that keeping those relationships with colleagues and mentors going has done a lot to keep my own energy as a teacher and musician. Right around the corner in January is the annual FMEA conference with so many opportunities to connect and reconnect with colleagues old and new. From Elementary Headliner sessions, to all the other sessions that you can find that relate and develop your approach to teaching, to the All-State Ensemble rehearsals which showcase exceptional students and teaching from the clinicians.
As a new music educator, I remember slipping into the back of the room during my first All-State Orff ensemble rehearsal and being captivated with the enthusiasm from all of the participants in the room – the students, clinicians, and teachers monitoring and supporting their students. It left an indelible impression on me. Teachers I met that day have been some of the most encouraging colleagues I have had the opportunity to learn from (and with) at conference sessions and professional development programs over the years. I look forward every year to reconnecting with them at the FMEA conference in January.
Check out the Smore for more information about the elementary sessions at the 2024 FMEA Conference.
Being the only music educator in the school is a common situation for many elementary music teachers. Unlike our colleagues that share a content area, or grade level, with opportunities throughout the day and week to bounce ideas off of each other or share a quick resource, it can feel isolating to not have someone down the hall to collaborate with in the same way. The proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” comes to mind. Beyond the connections you can make at FMEA conference, I’ve also been encouraged by the virtual avenues that developed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic that provided opportunities for us to connect with colleagues near and far via Zoom. Many skilled educators blog and write about their ideas for elementary music education, so I encourage you to check out these amazing opportunities from across the music education landscape.
While digital resources are great for working into our busy schedules, sometimes the time needed to develop the complex skills and strategies for music pedagogy – and the professional relationships I’ve been encouraging throughout this blog post – requires a significant investment in professional development in both time and resources. FEMEA supports members with several Grants and Scholarships each year. If you are looking to further your training with Orff or Kodály levels, World Music Drumming or something else of that nature, you can apply for the Janice Lancaster Professional Development Scholarship. If you have an idea for a project you would like to bring to your students, you can seek funding support from the Dorothy Land Music Classroom Grant. Find more information on the FEMEA website with application details.
Embracing collaboration beyond the music realm is equally important. Engaging with educators from other disciplines can broaden perspectives, foster interdisciplinary projects, and create a more inclusive educational environment. Seek out opportunities within your school or district to collaborate with colleagues from diverse backgrounds. Beginning with related arts teachers in your building is a great way to start brainstorming ideas to draw connections between your music program and other content areas, bringing more collaboration and creativity to your students.
The journey of a music educator is enhanced immeasurably by the connections forged along the way. The FMEA conference and other professional development programs are not merely opportunities for professional growth, but serve as conduits for building a community of like-minded individuals. As we embark on the upcoming conference and explore more opportunities, let us embrace the collaborative spirit that defines the world of music education. Remember, the relationships we nurture today resonate far beyond the notes on a page—they create a symphony of shared experiences, knowledge, and inspiration that reverberates throughout our careers.
Some of Jacob’s Favorite Links:
David Row's List of Music Education Blogs - a great collection of blogs to browse
American Center for Elemental Music and Movement Book Study - a weekly Zoom meeting discussing a book of interest for elementary music educators
The Orff Schulwerk Discography - a YouTube channel dedicated to identifying and sharing Orff inspired audio recordings
- Jacob Reedy