Steven N. Kelly
Southern Division President-Elect 2022-2024 Candidate
I am honored to have the opportunity to represent you as a candidate for NAfME Southern Division President-Elect. Throughout my thirty-six year teaching career, I have been an active member of NAfME as a teacher, teacher educator, conductor, and researcher. I have always viewed NAfME as essential for any professional music educator.
After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNC-G), I started my career teaching band in Roanoke, Virginia. I returned to UNC-G to pursue my master’s degree and later completed my PhD in music education at the University of Kansas. I then taught at Brevard College in North Carolina, and the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Upon moving to Florida to teach at Florida State University (FSU) where I am a Professor of Music Education, I became active in the Florida Music Education Association (FMEA). My experiences include being elected FMEA President and serving as the Editor of the Florida Music Director. I was honored in 2016 to be named the FMEA College Music Educator of the Year.
Through these opportunities, I have experienced the vital role that music has in our multicultural, multi-musical society. I have visited every state in our Southern Division and observed the successes and challenges those teachers encounter. I am committed to a quality, comprehensive music education for all students. Furthermore, I firmly embrace an inclusive, diverse, and equitable environment for all regardless of cultural background, including race, religion, age, disability, national or ethnic origin, ability, economic status, and gender identity.
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?
Music education faces many challenges. I will focus on three I believe need the most immediate attention. Our school music programs exist in a diverse society. Empowering all individuals to perform, create, and respond to music in safe, respectful collaborations is essential. Empowering individuals to meet their fullest potential will require promoting culturally responsive practices, policies, and awareness of music’s contributions to the human experience. We have addressed empowerment in Florida by hosting a diversity of music experiences including a Diversity Equity, Inclusion, & Access Webinar Series and promoting new members through emerging leadership training. As a leader within NAfME, it will be my goal to meet our teachers and students where they are and empower each to experience music in ways that are most meaningful to them.
Another challenge is the current COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps not since Sputnik in 1957 has music education faced such a challenge. And perhaps at no time has music been needed so much. We must promote music as essential to our social and emotional well-being. COVID has challenged educators to create unique opportunities to aggressively rebuild programs and promote music’s contributions to schools and communities.
Understanding the reciprocal relationship between our diverse society and our schools is a challenge. School music experiences must build on our traditional band, orchestra, chorus, and guitar classes. We should not abandon traditional opportunities, but music education must be more representative of our multi-musical society.
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?
Again, I will focus on three challenges I believe needing immediate attention. I believe NAfME is at a transition. We must reflect our ever-changing cultural diversity while holding on to our foundations. We must be guided by the mission and strategic plan put forth by NAfME and be flexible to revise that plan as society and education change. We must understand the lessons of Vision 2020 and have foresight toward 2040. We need to keep music as a vital and necessary component in every child’s education. Music education must be as diverse as the diversity of our students, teachers, and communities. We must be more reflective of our members in all ways including musically, socially, and professionally. As Southern Division President, my goal will be to involve and empower as many of our members as possible in our organization. I will reach out to members for their input and perspectives, and I will trust their beliefs and values. Everyone will have a place and a voice.
Another challenge is that of communication. NAfME provides members so many wonderful resources and opportunities. I do not believe that the average music educator is fully aware of the opportunities that NAfME offers. By creating a diverse multi-musical society, and creating broader more frequent communication, members can be better informed of NAfME’s value. Communication can include a variety of social media outlets, personal correspondence, and in-person events. It is important that we connect the valuable services and resources offered by NAfME to every member.
Relevancy is another issue facing NAfME. It is my belief that many music educators do not believe NAfME reflects them as teachers, their schools, or their students. Consequently, many educators do not become NAfME members. By building better more aggressive means of communication, being more reflective of a diverse multi-musical society, and creating broader hands-on resources members may again see the value and empowerment in NAfME membership.
How do you plan to advance equity/DEIA in NAfME during your term of office?
Advancing equity and DEIA requires visual action and not just words. To be culturally responsive you have to attach value to the belief through action. During my Presidency of FMEA, I expanded the diversity of our Board of Directors, I promoted the creation of safe, respectful collaborations through a series of webinars, during our state conferences, summer meetings, and in meetings with individuals across the state. Members must see you as a role model and doer, not just a speaker. I will take this same approach as Southern Division President.