Addressing MENC’s state and division leaders for the first time as president, Scott C. Shuler said the best test of leadership is how one responds when circumstances are the most difficult.
“Heroism comes about when we put ourselves out there, when we take a risk. It is easy to lead when budgets are in the black and staffing levels are healthy. We are not living in those times,” he said.
Shuler addressed MENC’s National Leadership Assembly June 27 during Music Education Week at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Virginia, near Washington, DC.
The MENC National Leadership Assembly serves as an advisory body to the MENC National Executive Board. The presidents of the federated state associations, the elected presiding officers of councils, and the chairpersons of Societies make up the National Assembly.
Shuler’s lively multi-media address to the National Assembly included music, cartoons, charts and other data. He is the arts education specialist in the Connecticut State Department of Education.
He said it was important for MENC’s division and state leaders to provide leadership and support to their members: “As leaders we must show confidence. Our role is to provide strength for others. Our power comes from working together.”
Shuler acknowledged the job of a music educator can be daunting at times. “It takes a lot of energy to teach hundreds of kids in a week,” he said. “When you are spiritually tired, go back to the things you value, the music you love. Those will give you strength.” He also said that is easy for music teachers to feel lonely when they are the only one in the building, “but we can’t let that bother us. Our work is too important to our kids.”
“We know that kids in trouble can be saved by music. Not all students are saved, though. Why don’t all kids have equal access to a music education? We know they should,” he said.
All of this will mean speaking up loudly for music programs on a consistent basis, not just when programs are threatened, he said. “Get your crisis-management plans in place long in place long before you have a crisis,” he said.
MENC is working with leaders and with members to hone advocacy skills. In order to be effective, music educators must take a grass roots approach to music education advocacy, Shuler said.
Shuler suggested new ways to view music education curriculum:
- Build on the traditional curriculum that starts with required K-8 general music programs by creating appealing elective strands that retain students in grades six through 12. Shuler calls this a “21st Century Music Program.”
- Give music teachers the skills they need to instill a lifelong passion for music in their students.
Shuler said there are two ways to summarize the job of an arts educator:
- • Empowering students to independently carry out the three artistic processes (creating, performing, and responding).
- • Helping students find paths they are willing to walk into adult lives in the arts.
“If we do our job, no one would be able to imagine a world without making music,” Shuler concluded.
Shuler is 2010-12 MENC National President. Nancy Ditmer, director of bands and professor of music education at The College of Wooster (Ohio), is MENC National President-Elect for 2010-2012.
—Roz Fehr, July 2, 2010 © MENC: The National Association for Music Education
Photo by Becky Spray