Judith Bush is currently a 2024 NAfME National President-Elect Candidate.
Judith Bush’s Biography
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?
The continuing lack of qualified teachers across the country due to issues with both recruitment and retention, particularly in rural/small school settings is, I believe, our greatest challenge. Based on responses from some of our NAfME Town Halls, another is assisting teachers in addressing classroom management and safety issues. In terms of pre-service and beginning teachers, many institutions of higher learning are requiring fewer hours to graduate, sometimes having to leave out vital information and/or practice. Another issue to address is working with various associations on class scheduling at the secondary level to ensure all students who want to stay involved in music can. While NAfME is doing well in providing resources and professional development for educators at all levels and areas to address these issues, I believe we need to step up our efforts, thinking more proactively and not reactively. Consistent communication with interested parties, higher education, administrators, and developing relationships is the way to get things accomplished for music educators.
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?
We must build bridges to rid ourselves of divisions within the organization and the profession. Everything the National Association for Music Education does must always have a focus on student learning by having a direct impact on teachers and students through education, providing timely and relevant resources, and through advocacy. In a time when our nation is divided, NAfME must be the example of how people from all walks of life with differing points of view can come together to support and educate ALL children through music. We need to continue building genuine connections between practitioner and researcher in order to find ways to work smarter, not harder, and professional development must always address ways to better equip the teacher in order to best serve students.
How do you plan to advance equity/DEIA in NAfME during your term of office?
We are off to a good start, but as an education association, we must consistently work to bring even more leaves and chairs to the table and have a concerted effort to invite promising young people to join the work of music education. If we’re to do this right, the work of equity/DEIA for our teachers and students means taking a wider view of what DEIA is, including neurodiversity and other differing abilities, working to learn more about each other, agreeing to disagree and always working on coming to consensus. We have no more time to argue amongst ourselves. If we want to have more diversity among music teachers, it has to begin with every teacher encouraging all students, but especially diverse students, to pursue music education as a career beginning at the elementary level. We cannot wait until these young people are in high school – it must begin in the elementary classrooms when students develop their initial excitement and love for music. Because this is where our efforts need to begin, it is imperative that NAfME continue their efforts to support and provide for elementary teachers through professional learning and advocacy resources.
In our country, we tend to believe that all people have the same opportunities, but that is only true if there are people willing and able to provide those opportunities. However, I believe equity goes beyond opportunity as it is merely one piece of the puzzle. Let’s take a simple job interview, for instance. I may look great on paper, have the same qualifications for the job as others interviewing, but my opportunity is increased when I have developed a relationship with someone who knows me and who can advocate for me because they care for and are invested in me. Take it a step further when we develop those relationships with those different from ourselves and we’re creating equity.
It is easy to throw money at a situation to give a finite group of people a temporary solution. I can even develop a step-by-step program that will help some people succeed. But real equity has the opportunity to thrive and survive when one person gets to know another person on a deeper level, asking about their lived experiences, listening, and working to understand how they can help where needed.
I believe we are born without bias, but as we live our lives and are surrounded by others, we become biased. I believe some bias is created in fear, and usually fear of the unknown. That is why real connection and building relationships is so important. It is only when we can see life through others’ eyes that we can see the lack of equity and work to do something about it. In so many cases, it is taking the time to learn the “why”.
It is not about eliminating what we currently have to include something new; it is pulling another chair to the table, adding a leaf, and including others in the conversation in their language. Working towards equity is not easy but nothing worthwhile ever is. But I believe music educators are creative enough to make equity through music a reality for all students if they are willing to have the hard conversations, discover the “whys,” and develop real relationships.
Leadership is a journey, a learned skill, a calling. It can be an untapped resource until it is recognized by someone who sees it in you, or through passion for a cause. There are those who believe you are either born to be a leader or you are not. I believe there is a leader in all of us, and whether we are a natural or not, everyone can learn to become a better leader.
Many servant leaders have made an impact on my leadership journey, and I have learned that a great leader walks alongside those they lead. A servant leader helps others to see their gifts and talents and encourages them to use those for others.
I have also learned that great leaders must have uncomfortable, sometimes very difficult conversations, taking time to listen and then ask questions to learn more about the person or situation at the heart of those conversations. Leaders cannot possibly know everything, so wise leaders surround themselves with people who are not afraid to speak truth, even when it is difficult to hear. This “cabinet” then allows leaders to see situations through different lenses, which in turn allows them to make better informed choices/decisions.
I am a fortunate, quiet woman who has people around me who speak truth, who encourage, and who see leadership qualities that I do not see in myself. Reading about women in leadership, studying the difference in leadership styles between introverts and extroverts allows me to help and encourage others when I see their leadership strengths. Leadership, like the art of teaching, is no good if you keep it to yourself. It is only powerful when you pay it forward.
Video from National Assembly 2023
View Judy Bush’s Opening Remarks from the Presentation of Candidates for NAfME National President-Elect at the National Leadership Assembly on June 25, 2023.
View Judy Bush’s Q&A from the Presentation of Candidates for NAfME National President-Elect at the National Leadership Assembly on June 25, 2023.