John Combs Biography


John Combs is in his sixth year as Supervisor of Fine Arts for Missoula County Public Schools. With 31 distinguished years in the classroom, Combs is an accomplished music educator with an outstanding record of service to Missoula and the State of Montana. He has served as treasurer of the Montana MEA, president of the Bandmasters Association and is currently the president of the Montana MEA.
As Fine Arts Supervisor for MCPS, Combs supports, evaluates and administers a comprehensive and active K-12 Music and Visual Arts program. Missoula has recently been awarded the ANY GIVEN CHILD initiative from the Kennedy Center with Combs acting as the author of the application and site coordinator. The initiative allows MCPS to partner with the Kennedy Center to recreate its approach to arts education and integration over the next five years of the partnership.
Combs was named to the Legion of Honor by the John Philip Sousa Foundation and was recognized by the National Federation of High Schools as the Outstanding Music Educator for the Northwest Conference.
Combs graduated with honors from the University of Montana in 1977 and earned his M.M.E. from USC in 1981 where he was recognized as the music department’s Outstanding Graduate Student.
Rarely is anyone against students having a music experience in school. The problem is with the level of commitment and value they place on that experience. Without an appropriate level of value we’ll always face tepid support from those who control our schedules, budgets and evaluations.

Our greatest challenge and highest calling is to provide our students with a rich experience in musical excellence regardless of the circumstances. Excellence Matters. It requires personal dedication to our students and our art. No matter the occasion, level of student experience or support, we must determine that students will receive the best music education we can provide. It requires passion for the mission, a deep knowledge of human behavior and music pedagogy and the understanding that we do none of this alone.

Music educators need to see one another as allies in the effort to create music learning that is highly valued as music for its own sake and as a means for integrating the arts into other core curricula.

NAfME is working diligently to become “The Source” of up to date information, advocacy, and leadership for our membership. Our membership is becoming more screen savvy as websites move their customer interaction to tablet and phone screen systems. Our ability to access the information on our website will need to go through the same generational process.

As perilous issues facing our federal government come into play it is easy to have music education drop into the realm of insignificance. NAfME Advocacy must continue to watchdog those areas that speak to music education in Washington and state government. Much of the fine arts world depends on our work because we are so well organized and well led.

Our National Leadership Conference should create an appropriate balance between informing, instructing and inspiring. The ability to find, train and empower our state, regional and national leadership has helped make NAfME a vibrant and vital organization. The national leadership assembly is a wonderful opportunity to further develop our leadership potential.

It’s time for an update to our NAfME mobile app. Our app needs to do more for us than remind us months in advance that we need to pay our dues. The NAfME mobile app should take us to places and tools we can use on a daily basis.

Maintaining positive relationships with congressional leadership is key to our development and our mission of advancing music education by encouraging the study and making of music by all.
We recognize the importance of having a national voice at the table speaking for our values. We should provide our membership with convenient ready to use tools that allow us to illustrate our principles clearly. Pamphlets, cards and websites all have their place but we need to develop other media as well.

Finding, developing and inspiring leaders is a must. It’s vital to have people who are able to energize and galvanize others for the work that needs to be accomplished. Our regional and national leadership conferences should dedicate an appropriate portion of that time for leadership development. We are a team rich in members who lead on a daily basis. Regardless, the development of leading leaders is essential. We need to take the time required to expand our leadership potential.