The 2019 NAfME National Conference

Amplify the Future of Music: Opening Doors for All Students

By Denese Odegaard

NAfME Professional Development Committee Chair and NAfME Immediate Past President

The mission of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) is to advance music education by promoting the understanding and making of music by all. When measured, the goal of “understanding and making of music by all” falls short. While there are many strong music programs across the country, 80% of high school students do not have access to school music or choose not to participate.

music education

NAfME Immediate Past President and current Professional Development Committee Chair Denese Odegaard. Photo: Victoria Chamberlin |


Bear with me as we look to the past to help envision the future of music education, through two substantial NAfME (then MENC) events: the Tanglewood Symposium (1967) and Vision 2020: The Housewright Symposium on the Future of Music Education (2000).

Vision 2020: The Housewright Symposium on the Future of Music Education was written nearly 20 years ago. The book explained the events preceding the Tanglewood Symposium and examined the period that followed, from 1967 to the document’s writing in 2000. It is interesting to review the three catalysts surrounding Tanglewood—school reform, civil rights, and technology. NAfME, MENC at the time, states, “MENC began to prepare the music education profession for a future during a time of change, progress, and turmoil.” MENC brought educators, government employees, and industry together to address the realities of rapid social, economic, and cultural change.


Photo: Victoria Chamberlin |


There seems to be many parallel catalysts comparing then to now. We have just completed a turbulent decade of educational testing which has impacted music education across the country. Simultaneously, there are cultural shifts, socio-economic challenges, and technological developments at a rapid pace.

How do we, as music teachers, embrace these challenges and advocate for music education to influence decision-makers at the national, state, and local levels?

1967 and 2000 were key years for MENC. It is now time to re-examine Vision 2020 as we determine a systematic plan to expand access and inclusion for students across the United States. It is an opportune time to educate decision-makers about the benefits of music education.

There are many challenges in our students’ lives. We are seeing a rise in middle school student suicide by 200%, one in five students have some form of depression, and students face trauma at an alarming rate. We can only speculate that this could be the results of technology too early, no recess or free play as young children, instant gratification, food additives, or poverty, to name a few. Advancements in neuroscience can now prove, through sophisticated machinery, that music has incredible benefits to human beings. Doctors across the globe are examining how music benefits patients in surgery and recovery. Through music therapy, babies born addicted to drugs can heal, and Parkinson patients are able to walk more gracefully.


Photo: Victoria Chamberlin |


As music educators know, students come to music because of the way it makes them feel, how it pushes them to do and be their best, and because it is a place to belong. Music teachers work to build relationships with students and know their needs and desires as individuals. Students need music in their lives to become well-rounded individuals—it’s not an “add on.”

The professional development opportunities offered by NAfME have evolved over the past few years to better meet the needs of teachers and students. The Professional Development Committee has identified relevant topics that need greater depth and detail at our national conferences. By providing strategies for teachers to improve music education for their students through new ideas such as, social emotional learning, culturally responsive teaching, social justice, and new ways to make music, we are hoping to better reach current and future students in more effective ways.

For the 2018 conference, the NAfME Professional Development Committee, chaired by Dr. Lance Nielsen, crafted conference content that allowed attendees to dive deeply into applicable music education topics. This approach allowed teachers to think differently about how they might teach their current classes or how to create new music experiences for students. The 2019 conference will continue in that direction with the theme, “Amplify the Future of Music: Opening Doors for All Students.”

Additionally, the All-National Honor Ensembles (ANHE) will rejoin the national conference this year. ANHE is a comprehensive educational opportunity for students, teachers, and parents in attendance. At the 2018 event, a Guitar Ensemble was added to the existing groups and conductors infused standards-based instructional strategies into their rehearsals. The 2019 event will add a sixth ensemble for Modern Band. This will be a great opportunity for music teachers of ANHE student performers to attend the conference and for all conference attendees to attend the concerts.


Photo: Victoria Chamberlin |


Join us in Orlando, Florida, November 6-10, 2019, where music educators will share ideas on how to reach all students in every school music community. The following Amplify topics will guide our practice and collaboration with colleagues from across the nation.

Amplify: Creativity
How do we create a learning environment that supports student voice, creativity, collaboration, and choice—whether via composition, improvisation, in current ensembles, or other pathways for creative musical endeavors?

Amplify: Student Engagement
How do we engage all students daily within our classrooms and throughout our school as they create, perform, respond, and connect to music?

Amplify: Instruction
How do we expand instructional practices to support student ownership, voice, choice, and assessment in a standards-based, high-quality music education?

Amplify: Access
How do we guarantee and expand access to music education for every student in our school sites and classrooms, which could involve parents, administration, and other outside connections?

Amplify: Community
How do we successfully create a musical community within our schools and/or beyond the school walls in urban, rural, or suburban settings?

Amplify: Inspiration Showcase
In addition to the Amplify themes, there will be a showcase of research and quality classroom practice in an informal, “poster session” format.

Within these Amplify topic areas, there will be day-long workshops on topics such as social-emotional learning, social justice, world drumming, song writing, guitar, ukulele, steel drum ensemble, composition in ensembles, and music production. Teachers will learn how to start, financially support and maintain various programs from an expert. Teachers from the performance-based sessions will share their expertise in an informance/performance for other conference attendees.

vision | tortoon


At the close of this year’s conference, there will be time to examine the past and discuss the future of music education. This will lead us to the 2020 Conference when the research/higher education community, K-12 teachers, and the All-National Honor Ensembles will all be under one roof. There will be an exciting exchange of ideas that will continue the discussion of our vision for the future of music education. We have the choice to make it what we want it to be!

Registration for the 2019 NAfME National Conference is open!

About the author:

Denese Odegaardprofessional development, NAfME Immediate Past President and current NAfME Professional Development Committee Chair, is currently the Fargo (North Dakota) Public Schools Performing Arts Curriculum Specialist, and has taught orchestra for 33 years. National service includes board member on both the American String Teachers Association Board (ASTA) and the NAfME Board. While on the ASTA Board, she was chair of the Committee on School Orchestra and Strings and received the ASTA Citation for Leadership twice. She was a member of the NCCAS 3rd-5th Grade Writing Team as the Research Advisory.

Denese Odegaard authored Curriculum Writing 101: Assistance with Standards-based Music Curriculum and Assessment Writing for Band, Choir, Orchestra and General Music (GIA), co-authored the ASTA Curriculum (Alfred) and e-Book, ASTA String Curriculum: Assessment Companion, and has contributed to several GIA, NAfME, ASTA, Alfred, FJH, and Corwin publications.


Did this blog spur new ideas for your music program? Share them on Amplify! Interested in reprinting this article? Please review the reprint guidelines.

The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) provides a number of forums for the sharing of information and opinion, including blogs and postings on our website, articles and columns in our magazines and journals, and postings to our Amplify member portal. Unless specifically noted, the views expressed in these media do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Association, its officers, or its employees.

Catherina Hurlburt, Marketing Communications Manager. February 1, 2019. © National Association for Music Education (


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