Fifty-Sixth National Conference

clifton keithKeith E. Clifton, Central Michigan University
2013 National Conference Program Chair

The 56th National Conference of The College Music Society was held October 31–November 2, 2013 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Cambridge, Massachusetts, jointly with the Association for Technology in Music Instruction. Attended by more than 400 faculty, administrators, independent scholars, and students—120 of whom were first-time attendees—the conference provided numerous opportunities to hear current research in all areas of music study, to experience three concerts of works by CMS members, and to enjoy camaraderie and networking with colleagues from across the United States, Canada, and beyond.

In addition to several chances to reflect on the 2013 Common Topic of “Inclusivity and Invention,” there was an increased emphasis this year on interactive and participatory events. One standout session was “Music and Dance of India,” which featured presenter-led group dance exercises far beyond the typical “sage on the stage” conference format. A number of sessions devoted to current issues in higher education were also evident, devoted to topics including entering and leaving administration, changes to the undergraduate curriculum, mentoring minority faculty, and interdisciplinary dialogue among specializations. Many of these sessions were filled to capacity and numerous fruitful ideas were exchanged.

A highlight of every CMS meeting is the Robert M. Trotter Lecture, and this year’s speaker, renowned composer Joan Tower, did not disappoint. Her inspiring talk focused on the challenges of creating a distinctive compositional voice in the post-modern era, which was followed by a lively Fishbowl discussion. A true pioneer in bringing contemporary music, especially by women composers, to larger audiences, many CMS members have known and admired Tower’s work for decades. We were honored to have her with us at the conference.

The location of the conference hotel, overlooking the Charles River with stunning views of Boston University and the city itself, provided the ideal backdrop for three world music-oriented lunchtime concerts by Vong Pleng Khmer, the Boston Guzheng Ensemble, and Libana. An authentic New England-style Contradance session and the first-ever CMS Honk! event provided further opportunities for attendees to experience the interaction of music and movement first hand.

Of special note at this year’s conference was the large number of student attendees—26% percent of those who completed the post-conference survey identified as students. Two sessions were devoted to answering “Burning Questions” on topics ranging from graduate school protocol to the challenges of the academic job market, highlighting the ongoing CMS commitment to support and mentor the next generation of scholars and colleagues.

Finally, I would like to express my sincere thanks to the 2013 Program and Composition Committees for their thoughtful work, collegiality, and diligence in assembling an exceptional conference program, not to mention the indefatigable CMS staff, especially Peter Park, who made my job and that of my fellow committee members so much easier. As may be seen from the statistics below, acceptance onto the national conference program remains highly competitive, with a 37% acceptance rate for the general and board/committee calls and a 24% rate for the composition call. In sum, the 2013 conference was a rousing success, providing attendees with many opportunities that support and enrich what we do as teachers, scholars, and musicians.

A Few Statistics:

  • 437 persons registered for the conference, of which 120 were first-time attendees.
  • Out of 271 proposals submitted for all calls (Regular Call, Board Call, Committee Call, Lightning Talks), 99 were accepted for presentation.
  • 63 compositions were submitted in response to the Call for Scores, with 15 works accepted.
  • 263 persons downloaded the CMS Guidebook Mobile Guide.