Southwestern Division President-Elect 2023-2025 Candidate
Ryan Meeks is the Coordinator of Instrumental Music Education and Co-advisor of the CNAfME student organization at the University of Central Oklahoma. Meeks currently serves the Oklahoma Music Educators Association as Vice President for Higher Education. As a passionate music teacher educator, he hopes to help prepare quality music educators who will change the lives of their students and communities. Prior to joining the faculty at UCO, he held positions at the University of Southern Maine and Oklahoma Baptist University, where he taught undergraduate and graduate courses in music education. A native Oklahoman, Meeks began his career teaching in Oklahoma public schools in 2005. Maintaining an active agenda in music education research, he has presented practitioner workshops and research presentations at international, national, and regional conferences across the United States and in the UK. His scholarly interests include music teacher mentoring, music teacher expertise, and pre-service music teacher preparation. An active clinician and adjudicator, Meeks enjoys working closely with educators and band programs throughout the region.
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?
It is difficult to go even a week without hearing calls for an overhaul of our educational system. Parents, legislators, celebrities, media personalities, students, teachers—there seem to be endless competing beliefs and values regarding the role of education in our society, and the extent to which our current educational system does or does not fulfill those roles. In combination with the effects of a global pandemic and other world events, these issues continue to present monumental challenges for the daily work of music educators. We must implement strategies to support in-service music educators as they navigate these challenges, while also coordinating targeted advocacy efforts to inform all stakeholders of the wide-ranging positive impacts that music education may have on students and communities. This is an opportunity to coordinate with state associations to program strategic professional development offerings, launch advocacy campaigns, and strengthen professional communities. In addition to these efforts to support practicing teachers, we must also consider the low post-pandemic enrollment rates of secondary-level students in music offerings. This is an opportunity to continue supporting traditional large ensembles, while also developing innovative offerings that reflect students’ lived experiences. Creating music-making opportunities that resonate with student interests and cultures will provide an opportunity for students to see themselves reflected in our curriculum.
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?
Just as music educators must consistently investigate how their curricular offerings, musical programing, and instructional practices enrich the lives of students, NAfME must continue to evaluate, develop, and promote the value of its resources and programs to its members. With a world of resources available at the push of a button, why choose to maintain membership in NAfME? The organization must not only provide relevant and accessible resources and services but must also highlight the value of membership. This is an opportunity for NAfME to leverage the accessibility of online platforms to display the many values of membership beyond the occasional state-level professional development conference.
While music educators are facing monumental sociological challenges, NAfME is uniquely positioned to support their work through advocacy initiatives. NAfME has an opportunity to work from the ground up, amplifying the voices and stories of students and teachers from diverse communities and backgrounds to exhibit the life-changing impact of music education.
How do you plan to advance equity/DEIA in NAfME during your term of office?
The American music teaching workforce does not reflect the cultural realities of our communities. Lacking a diverse population of music educator role models, students from marginalized populations often cannot envision music education as a possible future for themselves. Acknowledging the challenges to recruiting a diverse music teacher work force, it is vital that we create accessible pathways to the profession. University programs must consistently refine program and audition requirements, entrance exams, and marketing approaches to meet the needs of a diverse population of prospective students. In my work with El Sistema Oklahoma, we developed a research-based program to provide urban high school students an opportunity to develop preservice music teacher identities while working as peer instructors for younger students. Additionally, we provided the necessary preparation and support to gain entry to a school of music and complete music education degrees. I believe this model can inform other initiatives seeking to diversify the American music teaching workforce, and I will call on and support state and local organizations to collaboratively develop such initiatives.