MENC President Scott Shuler took office in June. He discusses his commitment to music education and the arts as well as how he sees his two-year presidency in this four-part interview.
What are the biggest challenges MENC and its members face today?
The priorities in MENC’s Strategic Plan remain important, but the current recession has heightened the relative importance of advocacy. As many districts respond to reduced resources by trimming their staff, it is essential to resist any cuts to music education, and if they do occur to make them proportional to those in other curricular content areas, rather than targeting music and the other arts. To achieve this requires:
- strategic positioning of music within current trends, such as by demonstrating that music helps students achieve the lifelong skills promoted by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (a national initiative on which MENC has taken the lead);
- continuous improvement of what we do in our classrooms, so that we engage and motivate our students; and
- the development of new curriculum content that entices higher percentages of students into our programs, particularly at the secondary level. Ultimately, we must attract more than the traditional 15% of students into high school music programs to produce a new generation of voters who understand and support music education.
People respond differently to stress. Too often people and organizations who could be more successful if they only worked together instead become self-focused, thereby making the situation worse.
Under current economic conditions, music educators must maintain our vision of a more positive future, work together to find more efficient ways to achieve common goals by sharing resources, and above all remain unified so that we can rely on each others’ strength(s).
Is there anything you would like MENC members to know about you?
I am totally committed to this work. The license plate on my car reads “ARTS*ED.” Bringing music and the others arts to children is not only my career, it is my hobby and my passion. My colleagues in Connecticut tell me that I expect the same level of commitment from others with whom I work… and they generally deliver!
Fortunately, I have a very understanding and supportive family. My wife, Monica, is a native of Chile. I met her while touring as lead trumpet in the Youth for Understanding Wind Ensemble and Jazz Band. Monica earned her bachelor degree in early childhood education at the University of Chile, and since coming to the U.S. has earned certification to teach elementary education, ESL, bilingual, and currently elementary Spanish. We’ve been married for 33 years, and have two children. Stephanie, based in Denver, wholesales investment and retirement products to brokers in Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico. Nathan, who lives near Boston, manages global sourcing for Boston Scientific.
To keep things balanced and manage stress I meditate, and Monica and I work out every morning (various aerobic activities, weights, and/or core). One of the challenges of my travel as MENC president will be to keep up some kind of consistent workout schedule while on the road. I very much look forward to that travel, however – perhaps the greatest gift of this work is the opportunity to work with and get to know wonderful music teachers across the country.
—Roz Fehr, August 25, 2010 © MENC: The National Association for Music Education