Takeaways from NAfME’s 2015 National Assembly

What did you do on your summer break? In June, leaders of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) from throughout the United States gathered in Washington, D.C., to advocate for music education on Capitol Hill and plan for the Association’s next fiscal year.

congress, advocacy, politics
NAfME held a well-attended congressional briefing in June before National Assembly delegates headed out for their congressional visits. Photo: Documentary Associates, LLC. dacorporatephoto.com

NAfME President Glenn E. Nierman led the Association’s annual National Assembly (NASS) in Tysons Corner, Virginia. The assembly brought together representatives of all music education disciplines and all education levels, from preschool through college, to work on a common goal: To ensure that Congress maintain the status of “music” and “arts” as CORE ACADEMIC SUBJECTS, as included in the Senate’s bipartisan draft reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), known as the “Every Child Achieves Act of 2015” (S. 1177).

association, president, award, music education
NAfME President Glenn E. Nierman was named a Lowell Mason Fellow during National Assembly. Photo: Documentary Associates, LLC. dacorporatephoto.com

Association executives and editors from NAfME’s affiliated state music education organizations also met for training and to share ideas.

Two candidates, David Branson, Western Division Past President, and Kathleen Sanz, NAfME Southern Division Past President, were chosen to run for NAfME National 2016-18 National President-Elect. Electronic ballots will be available January 12, 2016, through midnight on February 10, 2016. View the candidate’s speeches.

The event began with NAfME’s annual Hill Day, which allowed the Association’s state and division leaders to meet with their U.S. Senators and Representatives on Capitol Hill. On Hill Day, the leaders spoke with their elected officials about the Every Child Achieves Act.

Hill Day Recap

In July, after NAfME’s Hill Day, following years of delay, both the House and the Senate passed bills to reauthorize the ESEA. The bills passed by Congress must now go through a Conference Committee, and members of the House and the Senate will negotiate and reconcile different versions of the bills in order to send a final version to President Obama to either veto or sign into law. NAfME expects the conference in October. Get updates at NAfME’s broader minded Blog.

A cross-section of NAfME leaders and NAfME Collegiate members were asked for takeaways to share with colleagues at home this fall. Here are some of their responses:



college student, music education
Alissa Gomez of Kansas MEA. Photo: Roz Fehr.


Alissa Gomez, Kansas Collegiate NAfME President, a student at Friends University in Wichita, Kansas, says,

  • National Perspective: The Collegiate Advocacy Summit and the National Assembly Conference fostered the growth of a broader understanding of our NAfME organization, providing me with opportunities to participate in district meetings and to network with MEA delegates from across the country. Attending these conferences allowed me to see the unique ways NAfME collaborates with and contributes to each state MEA. Experiencing NAfME outside of my own state MEA immensely expanded my perspective of what NAfME is, who we are, and what we do.                                                                                             
  • Connection and Communication: Networking with peers from more than 25 states, I was able to engage with students who are facing challenges I can relate to and are celebrating successes similar to my own. I made connections with the collegiate leadership within my national district and now have dear friends residing from Kalamazoo, Michigan, to Wenham, Massachusetts. We were able to appreciate the drive and passion we share for music education and use it as a framework for professional and personal relationships.
  • Political Awareness: Collegiate Advocacy Summit attendees partnered with National Assembly delegates to participate in NAfME Hill Day 2015. Each collegiate attendee teamed with their state MEA delegates to advocate for music education and for the ESEA reauthorization. Collegiates were able to gain firsthand experience in advocacy, opportunities to interact with Senators, Representatives, and Hill staff. While NAfME Collegiates were attending the Advocacy Summit in Washington D.C., the Supreme Court issued two historic decisions.
  • Leadership: Collegiate Advocacy Summit attendees spent the third day of the conference attending clinic sessions and discussion groups that furthered our interpersonal communication skills as well as our ability to be leaders not only in our state MEAs, but at the national level as well. I was given the unique opportunity by the Kansas MEA to attend the National Assembly and was able to participate in the creation NAfME’s strategic plan for 2017-22.
  • Empowerment: Attending the Collegiate Advocacy Summit alongside the National Assembly Conference has empowered me to be even more active in my state MEA and with the Collegiate NAfME chapters that I preside over. I am returning to my home state of Kansas with an excitement and passion for NAfME that I did not have before, as well as countless ideas and connections that I would have never been able to procure on my own. I am truly inspired by the people I’ve met and the things that we’ve been able to do over the last six days. My experiences in D.C. at these conferences with NAfME have been absolutely invaluable to me as a person and as an educator.


music education, association, non-profit
Lisa Williams of European MEA. Photo: Documentary Associates, LLC. dacorporatephoto.com

Lisa M. Williams is president of the European Music Educators Association (EMEA), which counts 71 members music educators from Department of Defense Schools and International Schools. She teaches in Germany.

Lisa says traveling from Germany is worth the trip because of:

  • Networki
    ng: Meeting and working directly with NAfME and state leaders.
  • Receiving firsthand information that I can share with EMEA members.
  • Getting to know the members of the Eastern Division of (NAFME) and working together on how they can help us in Europe.
  • Participating in Hill Day congressional visits and working with the Collegiate members
  • Gaining valuable leadership experiences that will help move EMEA forward along with NAfME.
music teacher
Brent Rose of Wyoming MEA. Photo: Roz Fehr.

Brent Rose, president-elect of the Wyoming Music Educators Association, and director of bands at Kelly Walsh High School in Casper, says,

  • NAfME Hill Day was a fantastically unique opportunity to visit with state and national leaders about how vital music education is to the success of children and society.
  • The social media impact of Hill Day using the hashtag #NAfMEHD15 was both eye-opening and inspiring. Seeing hundreds of tweets and retweets as well as Facebook posts really helped me see the good that can come from advocacy awareness.
  • Visiting with NAfME President Dr. Nierman about the national standards and how music as a core subject will help drive the shift in both student and teacher evaluation was powerful. 
  • With so many questions about STEAM curriculum versus STEM curriculum, the presentation by the Army Band was very insightful and helpful toward understanding this shift in thinking.
  • Networking and connecting with people from around the county was a great way to gain perspective about the successes and problems we have in our region and state. This is a powerfully unique opportunity that I will not soon take for granted.


music teacher
Rogene Brown of South Dakota MEA. Photo: Roz Fehr.

Rogene C. Brown, president of the South Dakota Music Education Association, says,

  • Gaining a renewed sense of pride and commitment in our role on Hill Day.
  • Connecting with fellow North Central Division leaders, and learning how we can help each other in our respective states.
  • Getting great new ideas on advocacy at the local level.
  • Connecting with leadership to bring them to our state and inspire our teachers locally.
  • Being able to bring concrete examples of what NAfME does for our membership.


music education
Sonja Z.M. Williams of North Carolina MEA. Photo: Roz Fehr.

Sonja Z.M. Williams, immediate past president of the North Carolina Music Educators Association, who teaches choral and general music at Jacksonville Commons Middle School in Jacksonville, says,

  • I was grateful for the opportunity to give feedback about the future of NAfME.
  • There was strong advocacy work by the state delegates on Capitol Hill, which was led by the passionate Chris Woodside and his team.
  • President Nierman shared his vision and goals for the remainder of his tenure, which gave us a focus.
  • I appreciate the time that was given to network and share the challenges and successes with other state leaders.
  • Kudos to the entire NAfME staff for planning and organizing the conference; their work doesn’t go unnoticed.


Roz Fehr,  NAfME Communications Content Developer, September 24, 2015. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org).