Ep. 144 Transcript

Disclaimer: This is transcribed using AI. Expect (funny) errors.

Mindy Peterson: [00:00:00] I’m Mindy Peterson and this is Enhance Life with Music: A holistic look at the power of music in our everyday lives. This show is all about shining the spotlight and how music enhances our lives, whether we consider ourselves musicians or not. We look at the benefits of music through the lens of science and health, sports and entertainment, business and education. My goal with the podcast is twofold and they are really two sides of the same coin. First of all, I see these episodes as an educational PSA public service announcement because I really do wholeheartedly believe that music can make our lives better and each episode shares another why or how music can make your life better. And second of all, music education is music advocacy, in this case, preventative advocacy as opposed to reactive advocacy. Both forms of advocacy are important. An example of reactive advocacy would be fighting to keep your school music program from being cut. But the show is an example of proactive music advocacy. I truly believe that when our communities understand the value that music brings to our shared human journey, they will want to invest in musical education and musical experiences. There is an organization that exists for this full package, both sides of that coin music education and music advocacy and both the proactive and reactive advocacy, they cover it all. We’re talking about the National Association for Music Education, known by the acronym NAfME. My guest today is NAfME President Scott Sheehan. Scott is a nationally recognized advocate and leader for the advancement of music education. He’s also the director of Bands and Music Department, chairperson at the Hollidaysburg Area Senior High School in Pennsylvania. He’s also an educational clinician for Selmer. Welcome to Enhance Life with Music, Scott.

Scott Sheehan: [00:02:09] Hello, It’s great to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

Mindy Peterson: [00:02:12] Well, Scott, for listeners who have never heard of NAfME, can you explain in a nutshell what the organization is? Some of our listeners will be very familiar with it and some of them will not.

Scott Sheehan: [00:02:22] Sure. So NAfME stands for the National Association for Music Education, and I think this is very timely today to be able to share this with you because we just approved a new strategic plan last week for the association moving forward. And so in this plan, it’s a conceptual framework about who we are, what we do, why we exist. And it also helps to point out our action steps in the future for the association. So for those that aren’t familiar with NAfME, we are comprised of 52 different affiliated associations, most of which are state associations, state music education associations, and many of our members, to be honest with you, I think identify first with their state associations. I’m in Pennsylvania, and so I know what PMEA is and have been involved in PMEA since the beginning of my career. I find often that people don’t aren’t necessarily as familiar or don’t know as much about the National Association, but we are comprised of 52 different associations from across the country. We also have affiliate in Europe, the European teachers WHO music teachers who are part of the Department of Defense Schools have an MEA in Europe.

Scott Sheehan: [00:03:37] And we also have an affiliate that we work with in India. So we’re pretty broad based. And with this new strategic plan that I mentioned at the beginning, I just would like to share a few things of who we are. We are advocates. We are advocates for learners. We see ourselves as a collective voice and a community of practice. We are a creative society of musicians. And I think kind of to the nuts and bolts, we are researchers, scholars, pre-service educators and practitioners really encompassing everything from PK 12 through the collegiate as well as the college music majors, as I said, the collegiate, but also professors and the researchers of music education, music teacher, educators, as well as even high school students are tri m program involved students in middle school and high school. So we’re quite a comprehensive national association and our new strategic plan is really centering equity in this work through our three cornerstones of advocacy and public policy, professional learning and growth and research and music teacher education. So that’s a lot. I know.

Mindy Peterson: [00:04:51] I probably yeah, very comprehensive, as you said.

Scott Sheehan: [00:04:54] Yes, as I say, I probably just overwhelmed anybody that was listening. But that’s. That’s who we are and that is what we do.

Mindy Peterson: [00:05:02] We’re talking a lot about the word in the term music advocacy. I think people do tend to have different ideas of what that means. What does that term music advocacy mean to you and who, in your opinion, is responsible for music advocacy?

Scott Sheehan: [00:05:17] That’s a great question, and I think I’ll give you my definition and I’ll expand on that just a little bit. My definition of of advocacy is the art of building relationships. And I truly mean art because I don’t think it’s something that can be a one size fits all. I think that when we think about building relationships to gather support and gain support for music education and by the way, gather and gain, I think are two different things. I think that it depends on the person. It depends on the approach. It depends on the culture and the community and the circumstance. And so it really is an art of building relationships to find those supporters who then become the champions of music education and to expand on that just a touch. I really believe that this happens at three different levels when we think at least through the NAfME lens of three different levels, there’s local advocacy. What you’re doing in your classroom, in your school, in your school district, you know, there’s a lot of that local advocacy that really impacts the day to day curriculum, the day to day activities and opportunities that students have.

Scott Sheehan: [00:06:27] And depending, again, on the culture and the community, that kind of advocacy can look very different. A lot of our state associations, the MAS, are doing advocacy at the state level, and so they are having their own hill days in their own music education, advocacy events at their state capitals, where they’re trying to work with their legislators on influencing policy that impacts education or music education, specifically at the state level and then at the national level at that third level. This is where NAfME comes in and this is, I think, something that NAfME is best known for is our national advocacy work, where we are on Capitol Hill. We do have lobbyists. We are trying to advance music education at the very highest levels of influence for again, opportunities, looking for equitable access for music, education for all students, and not to leave any student without that experience. And so I really do think it’s a local, state and national approach that NAfME actually has resources for. If you go to our advocacy page on our website, you will see plenty of resources there for all three levels.

Mindy Peterson: [00:07:39] And would you say that the resources available are available obviously for music educators, but also students, parents with children in music training, music lessons. Tell us about who else these resources are there for.

Scott Sheehan: [00:07:55] Sure. Yeah. These resources would be there for anyone. I think they are in fairly plain, plain language. That’s not just necessarily specific to a music teacher or a music educator, but I think that they certainly could be used by students. And we share stories all the time of the successes of our students. I mentioned Treme, the Honor Society, and that that Treme I think is a sleeping giant for Nafi because it’s all win win win. It’s students serving their communities and their schools through music. And I think that is wonderful advocacy that the students can participate in and be involved in no matter what their experience level is. And so we do have that kind of grassroots right boots on the ground advocacy for students available, although we might not use the word advocacy perhaps that we look at it as service, it is still highlighting the benefits that music has and using music to benefit our communities in our schools. And then, as you said, parents, there’s a lot of information out there on our website for supporting parents, and we also link to a lot of other great resources to in terms of other associations that are doing advocacy. Obviously, NAFI has a wonderful, wonderful advocacy shop and very tied to music education specifically. But we also recognize there are a lot of people in the advocacy space that are wanting to promote advocacy for the broadest context of music and music making, not necessarily just music in schools.

Mindy Peterson: [00:09:33] Mm hmm. You’re serving a two year term as president. Tell us a little bit about what your primary goals are for your term as president.

Scott Sheehan: [00:09:42] Sure. So I’ve it’s lofty. I’m going to be honest with you. My goals are lofty, but it kind of comes in two ways. So I mentioned that we just passed a new strategic plan, and this plan is the culmination of little. Nearly two years of asking ourselves internally very difficult questions Who are we? Why do we exist? What is the benefit for being a member of NAfME who belongs, who doesn’t belong, who doesn’t have an opportunity to belong, who doesn’t have an opportunity to participate in some of the programs and opportunities that NAfME provides. And so we have really been on this soul searching time. The pandemic kind of caused us this time to pause and through that process, through the previous president, Dr. Max Bradley, we have come out with a very strong plan for the future of who we are, what we do, and for the association in general moving forward. And so I think that my first goal is that implementation of this new plan that really, truly centers equity in music education. And I like to use this analogy, I’ve always loved the quote, the JFK John F Kennedy, quote, A rising tide lifts all boats. And I’ve always loved that quote. And what we have to realize as we do advocacy work and as we think about equity and experiences in music education, we have to realize that not everybody has the same kind of boat. Some people have speedboats, some people have tugboats, some people have little dinghies, some people have canoes. And then the reality is some people don’t even have a boat at all. And all of the boats are uniquely different and so on. And so the types of support that needs to happen from a national association is going to look different in different places because we are trying our very best to provide opportunities for everyone and realizing that everyone has something different and a different need and perhaps historically has not had the same opportunities for music education and so.

Scott Sheehan: [00:12:02] My goal, first and foremost, is to carry on and implement this strategic plan through a very impactful vision for our association. Sort of on the inside. On the inside of NAF. My second goal, which is which is equally lofty, is to really try to rally the music education nation. I believe at my core that we are stronger together and that we as a music education nation can accomplish a lot more than just any one of us alone, and that any one of us includes NAF. I don’t think that NAF me alone is going to change the face of music education. I think that there are a lot of incredible, very meaningful associations, schools, teachers groups, you name it, in the broadest context, who believe that music is powerful. So I was so intrigued by getting the invitation to speak with you because I really, truly believe in the power of music. I see it every day in my school, change lives, save lives. And I really believe that together we’re going to be able to do a whole lot more than any one of us alone. And so that has been my rallying cry together. We are naf me. And when I say naf mi, yes, we’re a specific association in that National Association for Music Education. But I really believe we are a music education nation and we need to rally together to do this work and really ensure that every child has the opportunity to have music education.

Mindy Peterson: [00:13:36] I saw a quote of yours that just perfectly summed all that up, and I’ll read it here. You said Over the past few years I have observed that there are many silos under the music education umbrella. All of these associations and companies are well intentioned and most offer the same message. I believe we can greatly expand our combined reach if we work together rather than politely engaging in competition, which results in the dilution of a powerful, unified message. Naf We must recognize what other organizations do well and perhaps better than us, and focus our efforts on how we can support each other. It’s time to start moving mountains rather than just keep throwing snowballs at an iceberg. There is power in numbers and there is power in relationships. We must work together toward our common goal, and I wholeheartedly believe in that 100%. Love that quote of yours. Are there any, I guess, specific practical ways that you have in mind that the musical community can sort of take that first step toward being stronger together with less segmentation and more collaboration?

Scott Sheehan: [00:14:48] Sure. So there are a couple of things that come to mind. The first is that right at the beginning of the pandemic, when schools were closed and everyone was shut down, we really did rally as a music education nation. More resources were created and shared freely, openly, across all different kinds of companies, all different kinds of associations. That said, we need to keep music in schools and whatever we can do together, we’re going to make sure that students have music, even if it has to be delivered online in a whole different way than what we are used to in the sense of performing anyhow. And I saw that glimpse of everyone really banding together and and just jumping in arm in arm to say, Hey, I’ve got this, share this, I’ve got this idea, I’m going to share this idea. And it really became this sort of frenzy, if you will, of really exciting things. And I really kind of believe it was a renaissance in a way of us creating these online resources to be able to keep music. And then along parallel with that, where all the people that came together for the international coalition to look at the aerosol studies on how we could have music potentially less harmful in schools as schools started to reopen or some stayed open, that in terms of the instrument masks and so on and so forth.

Scott Sheehan: [00:16:19] And I thought that that study and that work that people rallied together really set a catalyst for us to be able to try to work together on larger issues. So kind of now that we’re getting beyond all of this time, I think that some of the things that that we can look at is where where do we collectively, the big we not just naf me see music education in five years, ten years learning the lessons that we’ve gone through with the pandemic and then saying that music belongs in schools, it belongs in every school, and this is what it should look like. And if we could paint that picture collectively and maybe not even. Just in schools, but in communities, because we recognize that there’s a lot of music that happens outside of the school day as well. And so, you know, this broadest picture of this vision of five, ten, 15, maybe 20 years down the road of what music education needs to look like. And then we work to develop a national plan for that, and including the support and the funding for that as well, I think is one of the that that would be my biggest dream.

Scott Sheehan: [00:17:30] And in terms of getting started on it, step by step, we have been meeting and convening. I think NAFI does a very good job at convening and bringing people together. And so we have a group called the Music Education Policy Roundtable, and we have had many of our partners, part of that roundtable for years. But in recent years we have expanded that to include a lot of new associations, new groups who have the same goals, the same mission, and who may have been either not invited in the past for one reason or another. Perhaps it was maybe we didn’t know who they were. But we are working hard to make sure that everybody that has a horse in the race is welcome. They know. They welcome and that they belong at the table. And so this music Education policy roundtable, it does have an advocacy tie. That is the goal. But we’ve begun these discussions about a plan, a larger plan for music education down the road. And so I really, truly believe I’m a very grassroots kind of guy, as you can imagine, being a school teacher. And, you know, I believe it’s one conversation that leads to another conversation, that leads to another conversation, and then we get some momentum and we build from there.

Mindy Peterson: [00:18:46] Well, I love your paradigm of better together and strength in unity. And just that definition that you have of advocacy is that art of building relationships that really resonates with me. Something else that you’ve talked about that has really resonated with me, and I’d love to hear more about your thoughts on this is you’ve talked about wanting to utilize more the documented research that shows the benefits of music education and kind of harnessing that in some kind of a national campaign. And I believe that you’re sort of let you’ve done something already to lay the groundwork for a national campaign. Some really took advantage of that. And you’d like to sort of expand that with Steam. And for listeners who aren’t familiar with that, STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and Math. Can you tell us a little bit more about the groundwork that you may have already laid out for this national campaign and kind of what you have in mind with that?

Scott Sheehan: [00:19:48] Well, along the lines of what I’ve been already sharing with you today is this idea of a coalition. You know, we have the round table that I was just talking about, but trying to have a coalition where everyone in music education can come together, have their voice represented, and realizing that there’s no one group that can represent everyone. Everyone has their own unique lived experience and their own strengths that they bring to the table, their own perspectives, their own culture that they bring to the table. And so I think that the idea of building a national coalition is critical because NAfME can’t possibly represent all of the voices that there are music education alone. And so I think that that’s part of this. The other part that I think is critical is that when you start to look beyond just music teachers, but you look at music researchers and maybe not just the researchers who are also music educators or music education researchers, but you look out beyond to, for instance, brain research. There’s a lot of neuroscientists who are researching the impact that music has on the brain. And that kind of data, I think, is very compelling for advocacy work as to why music education should be in schools. And so I think it’s this this collective approach, this collaborative approach of bringing together research, music educators, the industry partners, the other. And I’m very careful about using the word other because I don’t ever want people to think that when I say other, I mean less than. But outside of the space of music education, there’s arts education associations, education associations in the broad sense, our new advocacy and public policy. Let me think of her exact title. She is the assistant executive director for advocacy and Public Policy, and she came to us in March.

Scott Sheehan: [00:21:56] Her name is Amanda Karhuse. She came to NAfME in March and she came from the principals associations and spent over a decade in the principals associations. And so she brings a very unique experience and perspective for music educators from the sense of of what the administrators view. And so as as we try to build this coalition, I think it really is about trying to recognize, again, who has the horse in the race and who wants to be on board, who wants to be on this journey towards something larger than just any one of us doing this alone. So I can’t say that I have anything specific that I can share today. I am hoping that next June, which is our next National Assembly, that will have this convening or a summit where we are inviting everyone together in Washington, D.C. to be part of our advocacy Hill Day, as well as to have a series of conversations about what does this future look like? I find that we are often, in our profession, reactive to what’s going on at the time, and I understand that society and political pressures do enter into schools and create policy out of necessity and so on and so forth. But I also think that there’s got to be a pathway for us to see a future that is bright and rich and rewarding for students through music and the arts, and that together we can help to build and work towards a goal rather than being reactive to everything that comes down our path every year or two or however. And obviously the pandemic was perhaps the exception to that. But I also see a lot of good that the pandemic brought.

Mindy Peterson: [00:23:41] Oh, huh, Absolutely. Well, this has been so delightful. I am thrilled to have you as a guest today and just hear some more about your vision for NAfME and just for music education in general. Right now, I ask all of my guests to close out our conversation with a musical ending coda By sharing a song or a story about a moment that music enhanced your life. Tell us about the song that listeners will be listening to in closing here. We’ll be sharing just a little bit, a little clip of this. Tell us about it.

Scott Sheehan: [00:24:13] Sure. So this piece is called The Old Chiefs Lookout. And in 2017 and into 2018, we commissioned a local composer to write a suite for our high school music program that centered around the jazz band. He’s a jazz musician, jazz composer, but writes for a lot of other groups as well. And so this suite ended up being six movements, and it was called Small Town Big Dreams. And so it was centered around the jazz band. So what we’ll hear is a jazz band performing the Old Chiefs Lookout. But what he did as part of this suite was he did a lot of research into our community and our culture. And so we have a very, very rich history of indigenous people here. And one of the, I guess, landmarks of our community here in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, is the Chimney Rocks State Park. And it was a lookout for the Native American tribes that were here, that looked out over the valleys and the town and now sits a town. And so when Rick Hirsch is the composer’s name, when Rick came and was studying the history and visited the Historical Society and was reading up, he felt that what a great place to start, the whole suite that the piece of music was from the very beginning of the indigenous people that lived in this community long before it was settled as a town and became Hollidaysburg.

Scott Sheehan: [00:25:42] And so this piece you can envision as you hear it, you imagine this tribal chief sitting up on this higher mountain, which is a really very, very cool rock formation that you can see from most of the town looking out over this land that now is inhabits a school and an entire community. And that was kind of the inspiration behind this of what could be looking to the future of this land. So that’s the old chief’s lookout. There are, as I said, some other movements that kind of go up through the history and the timeline of our community, which is really, really an interesting way to present this. It was a great project. We worked on this for over two years before we were able to have all the pieces prepared and we had a big premiere concert and so on. So a very, very exciting time to bring this piece to life.

Transcribed by Sonix.ai