Gary W. Brandes
2023-2025 Southwestern Division President-Elect Candidate
Gary W. Brandes is Adjunct Professor of Music and Director of Bands at Lindenwood University. Prior to his appointment at Lindenwood University he taught for 28 years in Missouri public schools and 13 at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He completed a Bachelor of Music Education, instrumental and vocal in 1978 from UMSL, and a Master’s in Conducting in 1992 from the University of Missouri–Columbia. He served as the College/University Vice President for Missouri Music Educators Association 2010–12, President-Elect 2012–14, President 2014–16.
As a trombonist Brandes has performed with the Jim Widner Big Band, St. Louis Wind Symphony, and the St. Louis Low Brass Collective. Currently he serves as the Associate Conductor of the St. Louis Wind Symphony. Awards include Merit Award in Music Education, Outstanding Music Educator and Hall of Fame from the St. Louis Metro MEA. In 2012 he was selected as MOAJE Outstanding Jazz Educator and in 2019 was inducted into Missouri Music Educators Association Hall of Fame.
What do you see as the major challenges facing music education during your term as president?
To accurately anticipate future issues and topics that will impact music education, I believe it would be beneficial to consider current trends that will help guide our discussion.
For music education to maintain an essential position in our schools, it is time to redefine what constitutes the music education experience. Curricula will need to be more student-centered and reflect a broad and diverse musical experience. We must connect the concepts, skills, and musicianship that we teach to contemporary trends therefore breaking down the perceived disconnect of school music to the music our students experience in their daily lives.
School choice and homeschooling is on the rise and raises the concern for equity of music education for all students. This is a politically charged debate regarding effectiveness, and the current pandemic has fueled this issue. According to a recent survey, 40 percent of families are considering homeschooling due to the pandemic. How will children who are part of the existing school choice options experience a music education?
The teacher shortage continues to be an alarming trend. This is a multi-faceted dilemma. Enrollment in teacher preparation programs continues to decline, and current statistics reveal a 44 percent attrition rate of new teachers after five years.
What do you see as the major challenges facing NAfME?
- Raising awareness of the rewards of NAfME membership at the state and national level.
- The ongoing development of a unified voice for music education and its role in our schools and how it relates to society’s view on music as a relevant part of each student’s education.
How should our Association respond to these challenges?
Maintaining relevancy in our schools is a never-ending call to action. The current generation of students is globally aware and socially conscious. They are racially diverse; they embrace working collaboratively; and technology for them is a way of life. Therefore, curriculum and methods of instruction must encompass a diverse musical experience that reflects the student population we serve. Instruction grounded in our Western arts tradition yet mindful of current musical trends must influence our teaching. NAfME should continue to offer professional development resources that address the changes in the what and the how of teaching.
NAfME and state associations must foster an awareness of the impact of school choice and develop an ongoing discussion to address the equity of music education for all students. Approximately ten states allow homeschool students access to public school music programs; the remainder are governed locally. It is time for us to advocate for comprehensive student participation and access. The pandemic has demonstrated how connected and unified we need to become. It is time to navigate around boundaries and isolated issues and be able to work in supportive ways that are best for all children.
Advocacy and dialogue are needed to address the teacher shortage. Mentoring is a professional obligation for the experienced music educator. I would encourage NAfME to endorse and recommend the development of national guidelines and procedures for successful mentoring as a response to teacher shortage. Awareness and informed conversation must address recruitment in teacher preparation programs and the rigor of alternative means for certification.
We must increase the awareness of the many and varied benefits of NAfME membership through a vibrant presence at the state level by NAfME. This will enhance understanding of our advocacy agenda, amplify resources that address a diverse curriculum, and raise awareness of research that advances teaching.