POTSDAM Americas future music educators will have to be adaptive, diverse and creative.
That is the driving message at the Crane Symposium on Music Teacher Education, which started Thursday on the SUNY Potsdam campus and concludes today.
The symposium is the brain child of Crane School of Music faculty, who wanted a large meeting of educators after the celebration of the schools 125th anniversary last year, said Michael R. Sitton, Crane School dean.
We actually held one last year in a way to help launch the 125th anniversary of Crane with a couple of national speakers. That one was more internally focused with the music education department, he said. We thought it would be appropriate to cap off the 125th with a slate of national speakers.
The large, three-day symposium is tackling a number of education-related subjects, mostly looking at the uncertain future of music education in public schools.
Technology will challenge and assist tomorrows music educators, Mr. Sitton said.
A lot of what we are talking about has to do with technology changing the way people experience music, how people access music, he said. Not just encountering different forms of music, but it is new ways to create and make music. There are computer programs that are being used to enable students to create new sounds. There are iPad ensembles that schools are putting together in some cases. This is going to continue to change.
That technology also could help link students in remote schools to music teachers in other states or countries.
A positive atmosphere pervaded the conferences first day because it is clear, Mr. Sitton said, that graduates of schools like Crane are in high demand.
At this mornings session it was pointed out that the number of music teacher positions nationally that open up is not matched by the number of music teacher graduates our schools produce, he said. The jobs are not always located where graduates may first think of going. Music teacher jobs are available; however, they may not be in your hometown.
The question remains how long those graduates will be in demand, especially in the north country. Budget cuts in some school districts have left school music programs on the chopping block. If state aid is not increased, the Morristown Central School music program will be cut. Last year, facing a similar budget crunch, the music teachers position was reduced to half-time. Music programs in Ogdensburg, Canton and Potsdam have been slated for elimination or reduction.
Mr. Sitton said as budgets tighten and positions are reduced, the role of music educators will change.
It may be that weve tended to think of music teachers in categories a band director, a choral director, an elementary school teacher, he said. A lot of the jobs in the new environment are not like that; they are combinations of things that require music teachers to be more versatile and open to a variety of things.
Music is a marvelous way of engagement, he said. We know that students in schools who are engaged with music programs and with other kinds of programs are more successful. They are involved and interested and motivated to work hard, not just in their music but in other things that they do.
The event has drawn music educators from throughout the country, incorporating keynotes by Jeffrey S. Kimpton, president of the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan; Robert A. Cutietta, director of the University of Southern Californias Thornton School of Music; former Crane School professor Linda K. Thompson, now of Lee University, and James Austin of the University of Colorado.