With a Passion for Music, MENC’s New Executive Director Returns to His Music Educator Roots

Onetime band director Michael A. Butera spent a number of years as the state executive director in three National Education Association (NEA) state affiliates: Maine, Maryland and Wisconsin. Most recently, he worked at NEA’s national office where he served as the Northeast Regional Director, an area covering nine northeast state affiliates.

As MENC executive director, a position he assumed in May, he believes he has come full circle. “I have always had a passion for music, an enormous appreciation for music, and I know firsthand the power music has for children in our schools,” Butera said. “Unfortunately, not all children grow up with music taught by exemplary music teachers. That is a focus for MENC and it will be a focus for me here.”

Butera began his career as a public school music teacher in Munhall, Pennsylvania, a small town along the Monongahela River in the Steel Valley. He taught instrumental music in the entire school system and was also the high school band director. He is a graduate of Duquesne University with a degree in Music Education. His primary instrument was the clarinet, which he studied under Nestor Koval.

He said he has a great deal of respect for teachers, “for what they do for their students. They empower students. They make them want to succeed. Our societies are better because of our schools and our teachers.”

Butera added, “A good solid music program helps to build communities as well because music can lead to lifelong learning. Not every student will go on to have a career in music, but they might sing in the church choir or play in a community band.” He also said that in order to build that community base music programs must be strong everywhere, from the suburbs to city to rural areas.

“Our mission here at MENC is that every child has a comprehensive sequential music program taught by exemplary music educators. If we all work together, we can accomplish that,” Butera said.

According to Scott C. Shuler, MENC president and co-chair of the MENC Executive Director Search Committee, Butera brings “extensive experience building educator organizations in a number of states; considerable experience as a legislative advocate and registered lobbyist; expertise in refining and implementing effective strategic plans; and a fresh perspective and creative ideas regarding how MENC can improve its service to members and state organizations.”

Looking ahead, Butera commented further on:

•    How MENC can unite music educators of all types:
“We can link music educators in so many ways that not only cross disciplines but where teachers live and work. We want to work with music educators, with our federated state associations, with university and college faculty, with urban music educators, with rural music educators and music schools. That is the only way we can create a superior, sequential musical education for all students.”

•    Music educators and advocacy:
“The federal government has more and more to say about policy in curriculum matters. There is a tendency to simplify what curriculum should include. We need to keep music education in the mix. Children of course need reading and math, but music gives students a chance to use all of those kinds of skills and express their creativity as well. There is an obligation to provide music education for all students.”

•    The role music educators play for their students:
“Music educators play a major role for their students, teaching them that music is magic and passion and joy. There are few things in life that are better than that. If we give each student a way to find that magic and passion, we have done our job.”

Michael A. Butera biography

Roz Fehr, September 14, 2010 © MENC: The National Association for Music Education

Photo by Becky Spray