Anne M. Fennell is currently a 2024 NAfME Western 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?
Across the U.S., education is suffering a shortage of teachers and in many states, music education positions are unfilled. NAfME can be the organization to create a national recruiting campaign that can be shared with high school and college students, as well as music education associations. We must start early to recruit music educators, and with NAfME’s reach, we have the ability to create a timely and impactful music education campaign to increase the number of music educators throughout the United States.
I also believe that music education will be challenged by the need for relevant content, curricula, and ways of making music, to ensure that all students see themselves and their music in education. What is taught in schools in considered academic, and what is not taught in schools is assumed as not academic, and much of this is a result of a lack of time or knowledge, or possibly a fear of change. Students should know that the music that they know or have experienced within their culture is valued and NAfME can be this guide to ensure all see themselves in music. NAfME continues to expand and share the many possibilities of music education and as the organization continues to support equity and access this reflect positively within the schools’ curricula.
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 presidency?
I believe that current and pending divisive concept laws in the US are the leading challenge that the association will face and is also where our organization’s greatest opportunity exists. While NAfME has received recent research outlining laws that restrict teaching and learning in regard to race, gender, sexuality, and in U.S. history, the challenge is to stay abreast of these and to continue to identify common trends to better inform and provide direction for our members.
NAfME can continue to provide access points to quality professional development that fosters inclusive teaching practices, regardless of state laws, to ensure that our teachers and students will receive an accurate and inclusive music education. Via online connections with educators across the country, NAfME can share better practices and pedagogical approaches that promote equity, diversity, and inclusion in the classroom to support our students, their culture, and generations to come. While laws might limit what professional learning a teacher can receive within a state line, these can’t limit what is found online to support truths and needs of our students.
NAfME also has the knowledge and member base to advocate and inform national changes through their advocacy tools (in addition to Hill Day), as well as provide protocols and steps to engage with legislators at the local and state levels. I will continue to support the national efforts for these advocacy skills so that teachers can be empowered with the language necessary to advocate for equity and quality in music education. Our voices and work must be continually heard on behalf of all of our students/teachers and the future of music education.
How do you plan to advance equity/DEIA in NAfME during your term of office?
To advance equity/DEIA in NAfME I will do all that is possible to ensure NAfME’s strategic plan and vision is utilized as a living document to guide our actions, processes, protocols, and goals within our national organization. As stated in the NAfME Strategic Plan, “Equity must remain a cornerstone from which decisions are made, plans are developed, and programs are designed to ensure accessibility to all students at the local, state, and national levels.” I hope to actualize this statement and will do all that is possible to engage in and inform the western region/division of this work, as well as support each state in their steps to achieve these goals.
I also hope to operationalize the strategic plan and goals by co-creating articulated steps towards each goal with the western region as well as create shared leadership teams that are guided to implement each. Because the national goals are also the goals of the regions/‘divisions’, we can help break these down into achievable steps to collectively move towards national achievement. This documentation towards the goals will provide a transparent view of NAfME’s growth and this evidence can be shared with our membership. When the goals are achieved, our members should see concrete evidence of this in every word and action of our shared organizational climate, culture, and artifacts. I would also invite quarterly updates of achievements towards accomplishing each goal. When members begin to see that we are achieving our goals through concrete outcomes, their faith towards our organization’s relevancy will be apparent to all. This documentation can also become a model for other state music education associations to follow for their individual growth.
Music has the power to transcend barriers, bridge communities, and amplify voices that are often unheard, and I am committed to break down systemic socioeconomic, learner, racial, and gender-based disparities and racist systems so that everyone can discover the power of music. All teachers and students deserve to experience and develop their educational gifts and musical talents, and all means ALL. I will work collaboratively with organizations, educators, and community partners to remove obstacles and create equitable opportunities for educators and students. Together, we are building a future where music education empowers and enriches the lives of everyone, while nurturing a lifelong love and appreciation of its transformative. Creativity, music, community, learning, and joy are a fundamental human right.
As a past Innovations Council chair, president of the California Music Educators Association, and music program manager in San Diego Unified School District, I am dedicated to fostering a music education landscape that embraces diversity, promotes inclusion, ensures equity, and provides equal access to the highest quality music education for all individuals, in all the ways they choose to make and create music. I believe that every person, regardless of their background, deserves the opportunity to engage in and benefit from music education, and this access must also be modeled for music educators and organizational leaders, as well.
I am committed to creating an inclusive and supportive environment where every student, teacher, and leader, regardless of their background, life experiences or abilities, has the opportunity to learn and excel in music. My hope is for our organizations to embrace individuality, celebrate and lift diversity within people and music making, and provide equal access to music making, teaching, and leading. We can never pause in this pursuit because every person deserves to see themselves in music education, in both what is considered academic and taught, and how the music is created.
I have taught in inner city schools and witnessed the grave systemic inequities that limit both our students and teachers by race, ability, and/or experience, and I am also keenly aware of limiting practices that operationalize both racism and ableism. As an individual, I have always advocated for all students to have access to, and find themselves in, music, and I know NAfME has the capability of modeling this at a national level, while providing language and processes for permanent change. With the new strategic plan and equity as a keystone to all that is outlined, I will work tirelessly to ensure we continue to support the plan.
Through my commitment to diversity, I celebrate the tapestry of beautiful people, cultures, perspectives, and experiences that make music rich. I will actively seek out and call upon the diverse voices and talents within our organization and the wider music education community because with inclusion at the heart of our mission, we will take the steps to dismantle barriers and address systemic inequalities that hinder access to music education and leadership. By fostering this inclusive culture, we can collectively cultivate a vibrant and diverse musical community that provides understanding, embraces individuality, and empowers all people to pursue their passion for music, self-expression, music education, and leadership.
As a music educator, administrator, and leader within the California Music Educators Association and the National Association for Music Education, I am committed to lifelong learning, music education for all students, and fostering a transformative and inclusive environment where leaders can connect and grow. These commitments and beliefs create the foundation for who I am as a leader and guide me in every word and action I take. I am guided by a deep passion for music and its ability to educate and empower, and I strive to ensure that every child, regardless of their background or circumstances, can receive a high-quality music education.
I have a steadfast dedication to excellence, and I will always do the extra work to support and recognize the needs and strengths of others, brainstorm new possibilities, and work alongside a team to develop and cultivate partnerships and advocate for policies that strengthen music education nationwide. What I know for sure is that I continue to grow every day as a leader, take ownership of my actions, and strive to directly take on challenging tasks. While I know this is time consuming and can be emotionally demanding, I do believe that through courage, effective communication, and strategic decision-making, I can empower myself, a team, and its supporters to work together towards a shared vision of enriching lives through leadership in music education.
As a leader I also champion the values of creativity, collaboration, and cultural diversity, and I strive to cultivate a vibrant musical and leadership community that nurtures the talents and aspirations of young people and music educators, alike. I also embody the characteristics of an achiever, strategist, activator, and relator, and these strengths guide me to connect with others for positive and relevant change.
Through my unwavering dedication to music education and leadership, I set high goals and consistently strive to exceed them, instilling a sense of ambition and excellence. With a strategic mindset, I can analyze complex situations, identify opportunities, and develop innovative plans to achieve long-term success, and with brainstorming can translate ideas into action. Additionally, as a relator, I model empathy and authenticity, and actively listening to others, while cultivating meaningful connections. This allows me to understand and address the unique needs of individuals that help to build a cohesive and motivated team. In any organization, connecting with one another is key, and by fostering connectedness, we can build strong relationships to create an inclusive and collaborative environment that values diverse perspectives and a sense of belonging. While these traits help me support and lead, I do know the most important leadership quality is that of reflection of self in relation to all that is happening around me. Sometimes the truth is hard and humbling, but these are moments of growth that help me learn. Leadership is rarely a clean and simple step-by-step process, and some of the most growth might, at times, feel messy, but persistence will always win over inaction, and hoping for the best will always win over despair. My hope is to inspire, guide, and empower others so that together we can meet NAfME’s organizational needs and support music education, nationally.
I am committed to lead by example and foster a culture of transparency, accountability, and continuous learning, that will ensure the long-term sustainability and impact of both CMEA and NAfME. I envision a country where all students will express themselves through music because I know this will have a profound impact on their personal development and expression, education, overall well-being, shared sense of purpose, relationships, and our collective cultural understanding and development. As a leader I hold this vision and it is my guide through all that I think, say, and do. Yes, the work can be challenging and/or time-consuming, but the outcomes will be lifechanging and well worth every moment. Together, we will inspire the next generation of educators and musicians, creating a lifelong love for music and high- quality music education that will provide inclusive and transformative opportunities for all involved.