As we gather in vibrant San Antonio, we cannot help but be aware of the challenges currently faced by our nation. Music, more so than ever, should provide avenues for self-expression, should embolden, should create communities, and should offer new, courageous perspectives. As educators, musicians, and artists, it is our responsibility to recommit ourselves to our arts so that, in the words of Maxine Greene, we embark on a “quest for a better state of things for those we teach and for the world we all share” (Releasing the Imagination, p. 1).
This year, our annual conference provides space for us to collectively explore ways in which we might envision creating that better state of things. Our conference theme is “Reflect – Celebrate – Innovate,” and will serve as a guide during our time together. We must reflect on how we tend to isolate ourselves in our disciplines and how we can move forward together. We must reflect on our past successes and challenges and how learning from those experiences might nurture our mutual dreams. We must reflect on our shared stories and narratives, to know ourselves better so that we might know others better. We must reflect on the power we wield as musicians and educators, and how that power might best be used.
We have much to celebrate! This is our 60th National Conference and it is located in a colorful, invigorating city full of vitality and rich experiences. We celebrate the vision of many individuals that have brought us to this point in our organization’s life. We celebrate reconnecting with colleagues who continually inspire and energize us. And we celebrate that we are able to do what we love as our profession.
And now is also the time for innovation. What might we learn from one another as we consider new works, new ways of looking at the art of teaching? What might we co-create as we spend time visiting with colleagues across disciplines? How might our perceptions be changed by seeing through the eyes of others in the contexts of social justice, cultural difference, interdisciplinarity, intersectionality? And how might our collective voice be empowered so that our doubt and unease might serve as portals to audacious, daring, and compelling new actions?
The program committee and I have worked diligently to create spaces that hopefully will serve as catalysts for reflection, celebration, and innovation. We implore you to take advantage of these opportunities. There is a Discussion Room devoted to continuing conversations that might otherwise have been cut short. There are Networking opportunities built into the program. And there are Table Talks where discussion centering on general topics might occur throughout the conference. We have intentionally chosen guest speakers for their forward thinking, novel perspectives, and courage. Our closing session will go a bit against the grain so that our conference does not “end,” but leaves us nourished, inspired, and motivated to take bold actions both professionally and personally.
I also invite you to enjoy the celebration of El Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, which occurs on Saturday and Sunday. The art, music, food, and festivities will be spectacular and will give insight into the nature of Mexican and Mexican American culture.
The movement toward a more just, accessible, inclusive society can begin in our studios and classrooms. Let this conference be the impetus that unifies, emboldens, inspires, and exerts us to think of ourselves not just as individuals, but as one powerful community that can shape the reality of our profession and our world.
For questions related to this program, contact:
Donna T. Emmanuel, 2017 Program Chair