NAfME Eastern Division Conference, part 4 (the last chapter)
Adaptations, Modifications, and Creation: Modern Approaches to Teaching Exceptional Learners – This seminar was led by Cody Messersmith, a Pennsylvania PreK-12 music specialist and an autistic individual. He informed us of the number of students labeled as neurodivergent and the limited education on neurodivergence that is taught to music education students. I found it interesting that many music teachers focus on special education in their masters degrees so that they can be better prepared to work with students who have special education needs. One of the most powerful lessons he taught us was the need to consult and/or collaborate with the individuals who are neurodivergent. Many of the books about neurodivergence, while very important, are not written by neurodivergent individuals. The best ones to teach the teachers of neurodivergent students are the students themselves, their parents, and other teachers who have had neurodivergent students in their classroom.
Teaching on the Continuum: Musiking with Special Learners in PK-2 – This seminar was also taught by Ashley Moss Fox. I was very excited to attend this class as it pertained to the age group I hope to study. Ashley talked about how textures and sounds could affect students with special needs, how peer interaction with neuro-typical students can be affirming, and how it’s okay to meet the needs of the special education student. One of the most important lessons of this seminar was the idea that the special education student should feel safe in the classroom. Safety will lead to engagement in music.
My third concert: The All Eastern Modern Band and the All Eastern Instrumental Jazz Band – Once again I was amazed at the talent of these students who were chosen from east coast states to represent the best in their area of music. The modern band performed both known and unknown music including songs composed by the singers and one guitar player in the band. I think my favorite song was the Centipede, composed by Noah Cannady (ukulele)! The All Eastern Modern Band was conducted by world-renown musician and instructor, Bob Stewart. He took us through a journey of Count Basie’s compositions from his first in the 1960s to the 1980s. He asked us to notice how the songs changed over the years. Again, extremely talented students. I couldn’t believe these were all high schoolers.
Whew, so that was my weekend followed by a free day at Niagara Falls. I want to continue attending NAfME conferences, both regional and national, because they are so informational and there are so many people who know so much about music education. I do need to add, I was more social at this conference than I have been at previous ones. That confidence definitely showed as I approached many attendees with my research interests and asked them for input and possible connections that could further my understanding.