By Michelle Adams, Staff Writer
Over the weekend before Thanksgiving break, Shenandoah’s music education majors, as members of a collegiate section of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), took a trip to the Virginia Music Educators Association (VMEA) Professional Development Conference in Norfolk, Virginia. This is an annual trip for these students, but despite being common attendees, the students feel confident that it is valuable each year, because, as junior Shannon Williams says, “it is an opportunity to meet and interact with students of the same major at schools across the state, as well as other teachers in Virginia.”
In Norfolk, the students attended sessions and clinics planned for music educators statewide, with topics including “assessment, Orff instruction, smarter practicing techniques, [and] elementary movement and listening lessons,” according to Williams. Some notable presenters included SU’s own faculty members: Timothy Robblee, David Zerull, SU alumna Alice Hammel, and Jeffrey Marlatt, the Director of Music Education who also served as the conference coordinator. The Shenandoah Conservatory Symphony Orchestra, directed by Jan Wagner, even made an appearance at the conference.
Williams, who has attended the VMEA Conference three times, says that each year “there is always that one presenter that really inspires me and reminds me of why I wanted to teach in the first place.” She passionately described presenter and longtime music educator, Darva Campbell, saying, “I attended [Campbell’s] two sessions at the conference and had a blast at both of them. Besides the fact that she gave out free recorders to everyone at the session, she got the entire room, filled with college students and teachers, acting like elementary kids: singing, playing, and performing original movements to classical pieces. It reminded me that I can provide this experience for my students.” There are other opportunities for career development at the conference, as well; Williams recalls, “there are multiple vendors that sell useful equipment for teachers and students alike. Vendors sell conducting batons, scores for the classroom, instruments, and books with material like teaching techniques, lesson plans, and stories written by current and retired teachers.” Looking to next year, Williams plans to utilize the VMEA conference’s job fair, hoping to one day be an elementary music educator.
Music education faculty and student leaders worked hard to ensure that every student involved with Shenandoah Conservatory’s NAfME (SC:NAfME) was able to attend the VMEA conference. In October, SC:NAfME ran a bake sale in Ruebush and Brandt Student Center, and these funds, as well as donations from generous organizations and individuals involved with SU, helped greatly reduce the cost of the conference for the students. The music education students are greatly appreciative of anyone who contributed to their hugely successful trip.