Louisiana, Ohio, and Vermont Music Educators Associations Receive 2021 Excellence in Advocacy Awards

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Ohio Music Education Association advocacy logo

“During a time of enormous change and uncertainty, our music educators have continued to advocate for music education opportunities for their students,” said Dr. Mackie V. Spradley, NAfME President and Board Chair.

The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) has awarded three state music education associations (MEAs) 2021 Excellence in Advocacy Awards in recognition of their efforts advocating for music education: the Louisiana Music Educators Association (LMEA); the Ohio Music Education Association (OMEA); and the Vermont Music Educators Association (VMEA). NAfME President and Board Chair Dr. Mackie V. Spradley presented the award during the NAfME National Rally for Music Education, conducted virtually in June.

“During a time of enormous change and uncertainty, our music educators have continued to advocate for music education opportunities for their students,” said Dr. Mackie V. Spradley, NAfME President and Board Chair. “Their tireless work and passion will inspire students and communities for years to come. We at NAfME celebrate our educators who have persevered in their advocacy work for music education. Congratulations to our 2021 Excellence in Advocacy Award winners.”

Louisiana

LMEA collaborated with Louisiana’s first lady, Donna Edwards, to achieve her TEACH MAM (Music, Arts, Movement) initiative. LMEA used the space of the TEACH MAM to build relationships with other advocates to promote the education of the whole child, leading to initiating the process to create a state arts coalition. Further, Louisiana MEA has organized and created plans for government relations, advocacy education, and advocacy stories, including publication of STORIES in the LMEA magazine, Louisiana Musician, and other LMEA social media platforms.

Also, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the LMEA Board, Louisiana Advocacy Leadership Force (L-ALF), Booster Parents, and General Membership were able to communicate effectively with the State Superintendent of Education, the Louisiana Department of Health, and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education members to allow in-class participation using the aerosol study commissioned by the International Coalition of Performing Arts Organizations, of which NAfME is a member, with the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) as well as summer camp participation. This communication caused an about-face in the Louisiana Department of Education Back-to-School Plan in favor of music and music education.

“It is such a unique honor to be recognized in this way,” said Brett Babineaux, LMEA President-Elect, during the NAfME National Rally for Music Education. “Louisiana MEA historically has not been a state that has delved into advocacy, and … two years ago in Washington, DC, President Scotty Walker and I—with a few other board members—were able to go to the National Leadership Assembly and truly realize the importance of advocacy.”

“In the beginning stages of COVID,” Babineaux continued, “we had the opportunity during quarantine to get together some board members and realize this Louisiana Advocacy Leadership Force, and we came up with four really important pillars of what we considered to be the cornerstones of what we want to accomplish in Louisiana music . . . We are still working on a lot of these pillars; we’re brand new into this. But we want to do things like collect data and share that from our students.” The four pillars are advocacy training, communications, stories, and government relations.

Ohio

OMEA advocated with Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s office for COVID-19 recommendations created by OMEA, as well as using recommendations from the Fall 2020 Guidance for Music Education prepared by NAfME and the NFHS. These recommendations were included in the state’s schools reopening guidance. OMEA has cultivated a strong positive relationship with Ohio Superintendent of Schools Paolo DeMaria. He regularly attends OMEA conferences, all-state rehearsals, and board meetings. OMEA leadership secured a place at the table for Ohio Superintendent of Schools Paolo DeMaria’s school reopening task force. OMEA President Ann Usher met weekly with this task force to advocate for music-friendly recommendations.

“In Ohio our advocacy efforts have been successful because of the relationships we worked hard to build with people even prior to the pandemic,” said Usher. “We’ve cultivated a relationship with our state superintendent of schools by inviting him to our state professional development conference, state marching band finals, and other opportunities for him to see the authentic assessment he loves in action. As a result, we were able to get a seat at his table for weekly, or now biweekly, meetings of stakeholders who worked on reopening plans last fall and throughout this year.”

Vermont

VMEA created a committee called COVID-19 Advocacy Response Team (C19ART) to address the needs presented by the pandemic. This committee created educators and administrators guides for Vermont teachers to use in their advocacy. This committee also created a website and resources for members and stakeholders to utilize in advocating for a safe return to music performance in the classroom. C19ART successfully advocated with Vermont Secretary of Education Daniel French to loosen state restrictions in order to allow safe indoor music performances.

“There were so many people who contributed to the success of the VMEA advocacy team this year, and perhaps no one more than our Immediate Past President Bill Prue. Bill was an essential part of all of our initiatives and his unwavering support and enthusiasm was certainly a driving force in our work,” shared Molly Tobin, VMEA Advocacy Chair. In addition to the work of C19ART, “VMEA launched our first official advocacy initiative in late June 2020. This initiative was a simple social media campaign called ‘My Music Ed Story—Vermont’ where we encouraged teachers, students, and community members to share their music education stories on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.”

VMEA also wrote an advocacy statement titled “Music Education is Essential” that was endorsed by music educators, community advocates, and business leaders. This document addressed four specific reasons why music education is important in the lives of students. The completed document was shared with Vermont legislators.

The Excellence in Advocacy award, presented annually at the NAfME National Leadership Assembly, recognizes a state music education association (MEA) for outstanding accomplishments in music education advocacy. State MEAs around the country are advocating by meeting with State Boards of Education, advocating to state legislatures, and engaging stakeholders. The 2020 Excellence in Advocacy Award recipient was the Wisconsin Music Educators Association; the 2019 Excellence in Advocacy Award recipient was the Florida Music Education Association; and the 2018 Excellence in Advocacy Award recipient was the Michigan Music Educators Association.

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National Association for Music Education, among the world’s largest arts education organizations, is the only association that addresses all aspects of music education. NAfME advocates at the local, state, and national levels; provides resources for teachers, parents, and administrators; hosts professional development events; and offers a variety of opportunities for students and teachers. The Association has supported music educators at all teaching levels for more than a century. With more than 60,000 members teaching millions of students nationwide, the organization is the national voice of music education in the United States.

Follow NAfME on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. For additional information, contact Catherina Hurlburt at catherinah@nafme.org or 703-860-4000.