Annamarie Bollino is currently a 2024 NAfME Southern Division President-Elect Candidate.
Responses to the election questions
What do you see as the major challenges music education will face during your term and in what ways can you transform these into opportunities during your presidency?
I see three major challenges to our profession and students’ musical education. First, our field continues to face teacher shortages. The creation and sustainability of Tri-M chapters would grow a pipeline for students to the profession. When educators bring joy through music, our students might see themselves inspired to do this work. I also wish to empower and promote our elementary general music educators, who teach every student in their schools. Proactive advocacy efforts may yield stronger policies that protect music programs and staffing at all levels, particularly at elementary. Supporting music colleagues in rural areas through strong networks will also be a priority if I am elected. Teacher burnout is real, and we must help music educators in finding a sustainable life balance.
Divisive concept laws will continue to be at the forefront of local and state politics. Supporting educators and administrators in navigating these landscapes to ensure all students are treated fairly and equitably must be a priority. I will encourage our national organization to readily assist and guide members in this area.
There is a perception that music education is not a valuable and necessary part of the school curriculum. I wish to assist in educating administrators with non-music backgrounds in understanding and supporting music programs. Equipping music educators with the tools, resources, and language to help them educate their communities is imperative. Encouraging music educators to move into school leadership roles for an even greater impact on our field is also a personal quest.
I am dedicated to the vision of a brighter future for our organization and the individuals it serves. Music educators are the most innovative and passionate professionals I know, which is why I am positive we can overcome these complex issues.
What do you see as the major challenges the association will face during your term and in what ways can you transform these into opportunities during your NAfME presidency?
While the association has considerably rebounded from the pandemic, the financial challenges are not over yet. We must continue to diversify our revenue sources, engage more elementary teachers, and seek ways to invest our money. I will encourage and assist in this diversity of thought and action to benefit our members and the organization.
We are ALL music educators, regardless of which sub-discipline we may identify with. I will support professional learning in collaboration with other music organizations. I will encourage messages and actions that communicate the importance of all music education stakeholders at the table. I will support bringing music education stakeholders together to facilitate stronger connections, shared vision, and aligned advocacy and policy efforts.
Lastly, our association must be transparent in interactions with our membership and state MEAs. I believe we must continue building and strengthening the relationships among our state and national leaders. I wish to see improved onboarding for our state leaders, cabinet, and council members, as well as additional support to our state MEAs. I am deeply committed to these principles and the betterment of our organization.
How do you plan to advance equity/DEIA in NAfME during your term of office?
Equity is a fundamental moral and strategic imperative. I will work to advance equity/DEIA in three major areas: diversifying musical practices, developing music educators, and growing a diverse group of leaders.
Music education must stay relevant and engaging to our students. I will promote and support practices that diversify our work and honor musical traditions that mirror our students, from the courses offered, to the musical opportunities afforded, to how we fund and support those with financial hardships. Many fellow educators have developed creative and innovative ways to diversify content and curriculum. We must celebrate this work and share our expertise so others may gain knowledge and be inspired. I will also encourage the widespread sharing of research and existing pro-music policy to gain forward momentum.
The use of data to reflect upon our practices and use for improvement is critical. I will develop learning opportunities for music educators and leaders to review data points, and support our field with unpacking, analyzing, and using data to create goals around advancing equity/DEIA. Similarly, I wish to give music educators rich opportunities to explore unconscious bias, study their communities, reflect on personal areas for growth, and create/enact an action plan. When we commit to improving our practice for all students, we will create a musical education rich in quality and diverse in scope.
Finally, our association must continue to diversify our workforce and leadership. I would encourage experts in these areas to present workshops and share their lived experiences. Training our MEA leaders, sharing practices and strategies, is an action we must practice and improve. I would invite those who have been marginalized to the table, listen to their perspectives, and create a shared path forward. Intentionally creating pathways to leadership for members from diverse backgrounds is of great importance.
I am deeply committed to our strategic plan, which highlights the cornerstone of equity and our organization’s commitment to ensure all voices are valued and heard. The work of equity is the work of all of us.
I believe there are three primary aspects that educators and institutions should explore when championing equity in music education: music educator workforce, music course offerings/curriculum, and culturally responsive teaching practices.
When our educator workforce is diverse, the content and curriculum will reflect that strength. Certainly, there are many systemic barriers to overcome as it relates to the admissions and audition process of higher education, and even the existing structures for students to be successful in higher education. These same barriers can exist when teachers of diverse backgrounds enter the workforce. Our teaching workforce must match the students in our classrooms – therefore, it is incumbent upon all of us to support and guide the creation of a more diverse music educator workforce. Then, we must support music educators of all backgrounds and provide opportunities for networking and growth.
Music education must include a variety of music traditions and opportunities, allowing students to make connections with one another, appreciate similarities, celebrate differences, and even share family traditions and cultures. These experiences shape us and empower us to be our authentic selves. Our profession should continue to strive for strong, healthy ensemble courses while simultaneously exploring and innovating in areas that are relevant to the ‘other 70%’ of the student population. In my current role, I have spearheaded the discussion and inclusion of additional music courses to our program of studies – specifically music technology, world music, and guitar. These courses have provided alternative pathways for students to participate and actively engage in music. Music is embedded in our students’ daily lives. Presenting variety in music coursework allows students to explore music and musical careers beyond simply the ensemble experience.
Finally, we must support the learnings needs of the field. Pre-service music educators must receive experiences to study, discuss, and reflect upon their biases, understand their strengths, and grow in underdeveloped areas. Similarly, practicing music educators should also be given rich opportunities to explore unconscious bias, understand what experiences or skills they may need, create a plan of action to grow in these areas, and be empowered to exact that plan. Understanding the communities in which we live and teach is a vital component of being an inclusive and culturally responsive music educator. When educators come from a place of understanding their why, they are more likely to seek professional learning opportunities about musical styles and traditions which they lack familiarity with in their own musical background.
Educators teach the students in front of them. When we know our students, build relationships, and demonstrate care for our students, we truly honor them for their uniqueness and individuality. Music educators should welcome any and all students who want to learn music into their classrooms. Through an inclusive practice that celebrates music of diverse traditions, we offer a lens for our students to view their world and those of the people around them.
Music education should be relevant and engaging for our students. The use of music from diverse styles, genres, and traditions should be authentically taught and educators play a significant role in this endeavor. We are all partners in this work, from leaders to educators to researchers. Only when we support music making for all will our goals of a well-rounded, comprehensive music education be realized. The work of equity is the work of all of us.
I firmly believe in the power of effective leadership to inspire, guide, and empower others. People are the greatest resource any organization can possess. My leadership philosophy centers on the following principles:
Vision and Purpose: A strong leader must have a clear vision for the future and a well-defined purpose. A leader not only inspires others to work collaboratively towards achieving this vision, but also knows when to detour, or when the voices of the membership lead to another necessary path.
Empowerment: Leadership is a means to empower others, not to exert authority or control. I am dedicated to fostering an environment where individuals feel valued, supported, and encouraged to lead and grow while bringing their own expertise and vision to the work. Diversity of thought should be encouraged, modeled, and practiced. Leadership should be a selfless act that inspires and empowers others to be their best selves.
Communication: Effective communication is at the heart of effective leadership. I am committed to open and transparent communication, active listening, and creating a culture of feedback. We must lead with empathy, taking membership concerns and ideas seriously. By using open dialogue, leaders must ensure that all voices are heard, opinions are shared regularly, consensus is built for important decisions, and clarity is provided for our mission and objectives.
Honesty: Strong leaders must demonstrate honesty and transparency in their daily interactions. It is only through this type of work that leaders build the culture of trust necessary to successfully lead. Trust is one of the hardest things to regain once it’s broken.
Accountability: Leaders must take responsibility for their actions and decisions, and we must expect the same from the team. Accountability is essential to our success as an organization and leading by example is vital.
Adaptability: In a rapidly changing world, adaptability is key. Leaders must be open to new ideas and flexible in their approach, always seeking innovative solutions to the challenges we face and leaning into the discomfort. We must embrace change and encourage a culture of continuous improvement and innovation.
Inspirational leaders lead by example through their energy, passion, and vision. I aspire to lead with unwavering integrity, a sense of joy, a passionate commitment to our shared goals, and a deep sense of responsibility to those I serve. Leadership is a journey and there is space for all of us at the table.