Advocacy and Littles

Advocacy and Littles: A Look Back at the 2017 NAfME National Conference

By NAfME Member Elisabeth H. DeRichmond

The original article first appeared on Elisabeth DeRichmond’s blog Musikation.

Today, I participated in two sessions on advocacy and two sessions on music education and littles—littles being the youngest kids from birth to grade 3.

I loved the presentations on making music with young children.

Missy Strong, who has worked in music education involving Pre-K through 8th grade, introduced me to the concept of proprioceptive sense. This was a new term for me. She defined it as “body awareness from signals sent by muscles and joints in the brain” and “the sense of body position, motion, and equilibrium in space and time.” By the time she finished her talk on this one area, I almost felt that I was suffering from a lack of proprioceptive sense! However, the most important part of this discussion was how music, participation in music, from an early age can help develop the proprioceptive sense, which while an innate ability, sometimes does not develop normally in some children. For these young students, music can be an incredible resource to help them gain at least some proprioceptive mastery.

Dr. Missy Strong. Image from


Dr. Strong added that music is instrumental (yes, pun intended) for developing a child’s fine and gross motor skills and the ability to self-regulate. She uses a combination of resources to incorporate into three simple steps for movement in music. Her inspiration is Dr. John Feierabend who developed the movement component of his First Steps in Music curriculum from the important work of Rudolf Laban. These three steps include movement exploration and warm up, movement for form and expression, and beat motions. At the end of the session, she provided links to learn more about Dr. Feierabend’s work from the Feierabend Fundamentals Facebook page and a membership opportunity to join others who utilize this method.

While I have had some experience in advocacy, NAfME has educated me even more. Another influential seminar for me was about working with administration. While the seminar was directed at teachers, I still found it useful. Brian Bubach, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Speech Committee Chair, instructed us to begin every negotiation with administrators the same way—present the number one reason for your program and list three things you already do to achieve that reason. Finally, name one thing that would improve your program.

Brian Bubach. Photo courtesy of Elisabeth H. DeRichmond

For me, reflecting on my goal of research of music cognition within education, I see my number one reason as “Music has application to every other academic area.” I realized that I haven’t taken as much action as I should be. For example, in addition to continuing research, I should be reaching out to schools that do and don’t currently have music programs; I should get active in all music associations; I should join my local PTAs; and I should network with local teachers. The thing I need is collaboration with my current network to create a proposal demonstrating the need for music education (for those schools that don’t have music programs) and advocating for the current needs of music teachers. Right now, that is my current short-term project.

[I plan to] take additional courses focused on the variety available for children’s music classes and how PTAs (and me being part of one) can best serve music programs.

I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to attend this conference.

Register today for the 2018 NAfME National Conference.

About the author:

Elisabeth H. DeRichmond, MS, has been an inquisitive thinker since she was a preteen, with a background in psychology, Spanish, and student financial aid. A self-described perpetual learner, she embraced research as a means to combine her renewed love of music and a long ago discovered passion for psychology and education. In 2012, Elisabeth learned about an emerging field in educational psychology, music cognition. Within this field, she found she could merge her devotion to learning, her advocacy for education, and her appreciation of music into one clear entity. And 2016 brought a new adventure for Elisabeth as she delved into the field of early childhood education. It is her goal, in the coming years, to return to school to pursue a doctorate degree in either Music Cognition or Neuroscience. Learn more about Elisabeth here.

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