Southwestern Division 2021–2023 President-Elect Martha Gabel

Martha Gabel

2021-2023 Southwestern Division President-Elect



Martha Gabel has been a music educator for 33 years, teaching elementary General Music, directing children’s choirs, and is currently the District Fine Arts Coordinator for the Olathe Public Schools. Located on the southwest corner of the Kansas City metropolitan area, the Olathe school district serves over 30,000 students in 5 high schools, 10 middle schools, 36 elementary schools, and 2 early childhood centers. In her position, Martha provides support and leadership for all Fine Arts programs, working with a staff of approximately 200 arts educators in the areas of band, choir, orchestra, general music, visual art, theatre, forensics, and debate.

As a presenter at state and national conferences, Martha has provided professional development for practicing and pre-service teachers on a variety of topics including music standards, curriculum design, assessment, classroom management, engagement strategies, and leadership. She has served on numerous state writing committees and training cadres, most recently leading the revision of the Kansas State Music Standards.

Martha holds a BME from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, an MLA – Education, and an MS in School Leadership, both from the Baker University School of Graduate and Professional Studies. She has served the Kansas Music Educators Association as the State Elementary Chair, is a past KMEA President, and is currently serving as the Southwestern Division representative on the NAfME Council of Music Program Leaders.

Martha and her husband Chris live in Olathe, Kansas, and have two daughters; Hannah, a music educator for the Wichita Public Schools, and Sarah, an interior designer in the Kansas City area.


What do you see as the major challenges facing music education during your term as president?

A year ago, some of the major challenges facing music education included the ever increasing shortage of qualified music educators, ensuring that all students have access to well-rounded music programs that embrace diversity and provide culturally responsive instruction, and the need for equitable funding that would support and allow all music programs to grow and thrive. I would still identify these as major challenges today; however, they have been exacerbated and expanded by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The changes and challenges brought about by this pandemic have had a profound impact on music education. The way we have done business in the past is not necessarily the way we will be able to move forward in the future. Some of our new challenges include continuing to provide our students with meaningful and engaging instruction in a virtual learning environment, scheduling and programming decisions that could impede students’ access to music classes, budget cuts, elimination of courses or programs, and the long-term impact these challenges could have on the future of music education.


What do you see as the major challenges facing NAfME?

Many of the major challenges facing music education are the same as those facing NAfME. Some that I feel to be most relevant to our national organization include the increasing shortage of qualified music educators, providing the support and professional development music educators require to meet the changing needs in their classrooms, and the long-term impact budget cuts, program eliminations, and other challenges brought about by this pandemic could have on the future of music education.


How should our Association respond to these challenges?

The decreasing number of qualified educators in our profession is not a new challenge. However, finding potential solutions for this issue is now more important than ever. Continuing to focus and grow programs such as Tri-M and C-NAfME can help to recruit and connect pre-service music educators. Building a resource safety net for novice music educators that could include a focus on mentoring and support from practicing teachers, access to relevant professional development, and options for connecting and collaborating with colleagues can help to keep beginning and experienced music educators engaged in the profession. Offering PD on demand through intentional, online options will continue to provide support for both novice and experienced teachers, and offering opportunities for teachers to provide input on topics and formats for delivery will ensure that these sessions remain relevant to their current needs. Increased resources related to SEL will also be necessary as teachers help students to navigate the many changes that have taken place in their lives. That being said, we need to make sure that resources providing social and emotional support for music teachers are also readily available – their worlds have shifted as well.

Advocacy will continue to play a very important role in NAfME’s response to many of the potential long-term impacts of this pandemic. Through maintaining a strong and consistent statement that the arts are essential and taking decisive actions to support that statement, we can ensure that access to music education continues to be a priority.