Making Music at the Capitol

“For many of the students, it’s the first time they’ve ever been to the Capitol Building, so their schools look at it as an opportunity for a field trip that also involves state history.” — Judy Rogers, Arkansas MEA, MIOSM chairperson

The Arkansas Music Educators Association puts music education front and center during MIOSM. Part one

The Arkansas MEA has been participating in the Capitol Concerts for 14 years, and Rogers has been coordinating it for the last 6 years through the Secretary of State’s office.

Through the years, the Arkansas MEA has hosted many speakers for their MIOSM event at the state capitol. They’ve invited a member of the singing group Point of Grace, a symphony conductor, a barbershop quartet, a television personality, a recording artist, and “a legislator who lobbied for and got a law passed in Arkansas that all elementary students would have music and art taught by teachers certified in music and art, among others.” This year, they invited Mrs. Arkansas 2010, Michelle Flake, and a middle school assistant principal who they honored as Arkansas Administrator of the Year.

When asked if MEA members visit their legislators while at the Capitol, Rogers says “MEA members don’t visit legislators at this event. The legislature is in session every other year; and when they’re at the Capitol, as they will be this year, they often come down to the concerts if their schedules allow. I usually invite some who are especially supportive of music. Parents also attend as chaperones and audience members.”

When asked about teachers getting time away from school to attend this event, Rogers says:

“I’m sure there are some teachers who would like to bring their groups but can’t get permission to take the trip. Often that depends on how many other trips students have taken, whether the event occurs on a day that conflicts with a school event, and sometimes it just depends on the principal. One year there were several “snow days,” and schools had to cancel because they couldn’t miss any more school.” Since this event is often the first trip many students have ever taken to the state Capitol, groups frequently take advantage of the Capitol tours provided by the The Secretary of State’s office.

Rogers escorted student groups to the Capitol for “about 12 years”, and never had any trouble getting permission. Several schools come every year, and this year, they are coming from all corners of the state, according to Rogers. This year students are also participating from the Arkansas School for the Blind in Little Rock.

–Sue Rarus, February 23, 2011, © National Association for Music Education