Imagine 1900 music teachers singing “Viva La Musica.” Imagine 166 pages full of notes by 65 presenters from 31 states and 10 different countries. Imagine being able to see children’s performances including children’s choirs, Orff ensembles and a taiko drumming ensemble. Imagine having a chance to play on a marimba so large that you had to stand on a chair to play it. Imagine being a part of at least 200 people doing community dancing for 1 ½ hours.
THAT is what AOSA national conference is like and more!
I had the privilege of going to Charlotte, NC to the 40th AOSA National Conference. The CTAOSA chapter awarded me the Barbara Potter scholarship to help me with the cost of attending. I am very thankful for this aid as it helped me afford the trip. There were so many possibilities to pick from that I had to decide on ten workshops. I was able to go to workshops on jazz, Thai and Philippine music, drumming techniques, songs and dances from Eastern Europe, taiko drumming, mixed meter, Spanish children’s songs and assessment to name a few. This experience of being able to connect with music teachers from so many places was just phenomenal! I really cannot adequately describe the experience because it is more than workshops and performances. It is a feeling, a sense, a community, if you will, of music educators who are all committed to teaching music to children and making the world a better place through music. I would encourage those of you who have not had a chance to go, to try to get to the next one. The quality as well as the quantity of this experience is well worth the trip!
Cost of attending AOSA National Conference: $$$
What you get from AOSA National Conference: Priceless!
Reflection on the 2008 AOSA National Conference
While I have attended thirty or so AOSA National Conferences-as a conference participant and/or presenter, as wide-eyed newcomer and tested veteran—I am always amazed at the jumble of emotions and new experiences each trip brings. This year’s conference, A Patschwerk of Possibilities, held in Charlotte, North Carolina, brought that familiar mix of pride and anxiety, anticipation and excitement, as well as two new roles for me.
I was honored to have received the Albert Rawlins Memorial Scholarship, established by our chapter in remembrance of a fine musician and a great man. The honorarium made the travel costs much easier to bear in what has become a difficult financial year. More importantly, I felt a renewed dedication to the conference, a need to participate as fully as possible and convey my experience to those members of CTAOSA who were unable to attend.
The idea of capturing the experience of the National Conference for others was compounded by my Superintendent who denied leave to two of my colleagues who had signed up to go. Though they planned to pay their own way, he cited too much time away from the classroom as his reasoning for this decision. I was to be a sort of human camcorder, somehow absorbing four jam-packed, event filled days and playing it back to my fellow teachers upon my return.
I was lucky enough to attend the conference with my new teaching partner. Since this was her first year as a general music teacher, and her first AOSA national conference, she was excited about everything, and her excitement was contagious. We went to performances and dance sessions together, and were able to reinforce what we had seen and experienced by talking afterward. We had the contrasting perspectives of eager newcomer and experienced veteran. We were able to discuss how we would bring our shared experiences back to our own students.
Because I presented two repeated sessions, I was only able to attend two thirds of the sessions I would normally see at a conference. But presenting provides rewards and learning opportunities. For example, it is broadening for me to see how the materials I presents are interpreted differently, depending on the composition of each group. I’ll describe the workshop that was based on Anna Grossnickle Hine’s book, Pieces: A Year in Poems and Quilts. I had chosen and displayed eight of the poems from the book. The participants spent time viewing them all, after which they chose poems to interpret. The poetry was beautifully displayed, thanks to Linnea, who made fabric frames on which I could display the illustrations and poetry from the book. Since some of the poems were shorter than others, some groups interpreted and performed two poems. It was interesting to see which poems were chosen, and what the groups did with them. A special moment for me was when Donna Cote worked with Rachel Apperle in a group of two to perform a poem in which a crow lands on a cedar branch. Rachel became the crow, and Donna served as narrator while improvising on a variety of instruments. Rachel had been in my first Level I class at Illinois State, while I’ve known Donna for decades through CTAOSA. To see these different parts of my life come together by chance at a workshop session was very moving for me.
When I wasn’t attending sessions or presenting, I was able to take advantage of the exhibits. The Keetman Boutique was exemplary this year, and I know that my purchases are benefiting scholarships. I also enjoyed folk dancing and children’s concerts. My heart full at the business meeting in which Barbara Potter’s legacy to AOSA was lauded. It caused me to remember her contributions to our chapter and her dedication to AOSA. It is my hope that our chapter will find ways to contribute to this scholarship.
I find that the conference primes my pump. Following the conference, my brain goes into hyper drive, going beyond what I saw and heard to make connections about my own teaching. Beyond the ideas shared at sessions, I go through a phase in which I’m coming up with many more ideas than I have time to use. However, I’ve learned take notes, not only on the sessions, but on these ideas as well. I tuck them away in a treasure chest, which, these days, means I type away on the computer. I can return to this cache at my leisure.
This year we had a chapter sharing session the week after the conference. Though I was feeling particularly worn out the Saturday following the conference, I decided to go anyway, and I was really glad I did. It was one of the best workshops I’ve attended in a long time. The presenters shared ideas that had excited them at National, and it was great to work with a variety of people who shared diverse activities. Linnea got us off to a great start with her greeting game. I plan to teach the Thai piece that Helen Smith shared with us soon. The “make and take” was fun, and gave me ideas for helping children explore the science of sound. The art and listening experience that Lisa Feltes did with us was amazing. I was like a Kindergarten child coming home from school and putting up my artwork on the refrigerator. Sue Snyder shared some great ideas as well. A chapter sharing is the closest thing to being able to share a national conference with others. There are enough participants to recreate some of the activities. This was a far better vehicle than my attempt to share with colleagues on the staff development day following the conference. With only six people in the room, with me as presenter and the others required to be there, we could not generate the same kind of energy as when you have a large group. We could not break into groups to interpret and then share, for example.
I think the spirit of Orff Schulwerk is dependent on people. It can only be directly experienced, not shown to a colleague like souvenir videotape. I began to see everything through a framework of “how can I share this experience when I get home?” I found that, although I could share some of the activities, the spirit of a conference is hard to describe. What exactly makes a children’s performance sparkle? What aspect of a particular song gives one goose bumps? At a conference you find yourself in conversation with colleagues from other parts of the state, or country or even world, and these chance encounters leave you thinking about your teaching in new ways. These are things that each person must experience, see and interpret.
Orff Schulwerk has been in the forefront of the pedagogical revolution.
Students no longer sit in rows in lecture halls to receive information in neat little packages or sit gaping at a screen. They are active participants, learning through joyful discovery. As educators, much of our staff development puts us back into the role of passive learners. Not so at an AOSA conference. If you have never been, I encourage you to bend heaven and earth to go and experience it for yourself. I think you’ll find that, like me, you’ll want and need to go back again and again. I thank the chapter for providing me funds that assisted me in attending this year’s conference. I hope I will be able to put what I have learned to good use to benefit my students, future workshop participants, Level I students and our chapter members.