Not Your Music Teacher's TRI-M

I am Pat Barnett—National Chair for the TRI-M Music Honor Society.  I am enthusiastic as I begin my work as Chair of our noble society.  Presently, I am the Department Chair for Fine Arts at Maine Township High School West in Des Plaines, Illinois.  There’s a good chance that if you’ve ever flown into Chicago and landed at O’Hare International Airport, you’ve flown right over my school.  Prior to being the Fine Arts Chair at Maine West, I was the Choral Director at Maine Township High School East—Home of Chapter 1 of the TRI-M Music Honor Society.  I was Sponsor of Chapter # 1 for 15 years and personally knew one of the founders of our society, Frances Harley.  Along with her husband, Alexander, they began the TRI-M Music Honor Society in 1936.  The Harley’s vision for an honor group to provide musical enrichment, grow leadership skills, and instill community service in the students of today’s schools is a noble and worthy cause.  I am committed to carrying on their work as your National Chair.


My journey from TRI-M Chapter Sponsor to Illinois State Chair and now TRI-M National Chair has been unique because, as the sponsor of Chapter # 1, we never had the option that other schools have chosen—to disband their chapter.  How could Chapter # 1 fold?  It couldn’t so the other music teachers at Maine East and I constantly looked for ways to reinvent it, keep it fresh, and avoid my favorite student TRI-M phrase “what do I get for my initiation fee—a pin, a card, and nothing else?”  In my new role as sponsor of Maine West High School Chapter # 458, I have continued to find ways to make student participation meaningful.  Here’s my latest revelation…The less I do to organize and plan TRI-M activities, the more the students do.  Simple, huh?  We all know this and I found that TRI M works better when I provide the students with a basic framework and let them create the rest.  Of course, I’m involved as the mentor, but they have come up with countless innovations through creative problem-solving.  I continue to be inspired and amazed at what our young leaders can do when we give them the chance.


The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) has been hard at work to help reinvent and reimagine our society.  There is a national push to connect the chapters and state officers together to find ways to address some of the most pressing issues confronting music education today.  TRI-M is a tangible and visible symbol of what really works in our music programs.  Student growth as musicians, leaders, and givers represent the very best in what we hope for all of our students.  I hope you will consider joining us in our noble work.


Finally, the comparisons between the TRI-M Music Honor Society and the National Honor Society cannot be discounted.  The NHS is actually 15 years older than TRI-M and both share similar goals, missions and visions.  TRI-M is the National Honor Society for Music Students.  Why would we not want to recognize our talented students in any way less than we do our academically talented students?


This past summer, while at the Leadership Assembly of NAfME, a new motto was unveiled.  Music Education-Orchestrating Success speaks to the very best that we hope to accomplish as music teachers, administrators, and supporters of music.  Through a student’s participation, they gain life-long skills which aid in the development of life-long creators and consumers of the arts.  In the experiences that they gain in our music programs, my hope is that TRI-M is a part of your music program.


I believe in TRI-M and the strong transformational power that occurs through participation.  Please let me know if there is anything I can do to establish, renew, or reimagine your chapter.  I am honored to lead this organization.  No, it’s no longer your music teacher’s TRI-M.  It’s ours—to provide students with valuable experiences that will aid them through a life filled with music, leadership, and service.

Patrick S. Barnett

TRI-M National Chair

Illinois State Chair


Fine Arts Department Chair

Maine Township High School West

Des Plaines, Illinois