Happy New Year 2016!
Right before the holidays we were in the midst of the 2015 Midwest Clinic in Chicago, an annual gathering of band and orchestra music educators and the music industry professionals who support the work they do with their student musicians. An earlier post described my first experience at Midwest and this year for me hearkened back to the energizing quality of that initial visit, as my time at the conference was spent in a much different way than before.
What did I feel were the top three things about the Midwest Clinic this year?
1. The Crowds
I'm generally not a fan of crowds. Times Square at Midnight, Wal-Mart on Black Friday, midnight showings of Star Wars...not places you're going to find me. But I love being in the crowd at Midwest and similar conferences. It creates an atmosphere that just feels electric, full of a synergy that can spark incredible opportunities and collaborations.
We kept hearing there were record numbers of attendees, and it showed. What this tells me...especially seeing so many young directors and college students present...is that the heart of music education is strong. However, we need to remember to stay vigilant and support these young professionals in order to combat burnout and keep their vitality present in the field.
2. The App
Yes...there's an app for that. And it's fantastic.
If you're going to Midwest next year and didn't get this for your smartphone, get it. If you are the coordinator of a state music conference, you need to talk to these developers.
I had this app last year, but either I wasn't paying attention in 2014 or they ramped this up by leaps and bounds for 2015. Not only does it list the exhibitors, clinics, concerts, etc.--it allows you to create lists of sessions and exhibitors to visit (and keep notes right in the app), check off who you've visited, manage your schedule, send messages, get alerts, find your way around the hall, connect on social media, etc. There was even a scavenger hunt for the exhibit hall that was managed via the app.
This is a brilliant, convenient tool that I found tremendously helpful. Kudos to the Midwest team for developing this.
3. The Value of Connection
As I said earlier, I spent my days much differently this time around and it was like experiencing the clinic from a new vantage point. This time, rather than confining myself to the booth I spent the vast majority of the days visiting with other exhibitors.
Much of my time was spent talking with the many travel companies with which we collaborate to bring our festival experience to performing ensembles nationwide. We talked about the needs of their clients and what will create the optimal performance and educational opportunities for them. There were also numerous meetings with various organizations in the music education field where we are developing collaborations that we hope will provide helpful resources and new opportunities for music educators and their ensembles. These conversations will lead to some very positive outcomes that you will begin to see us implement in the months and years ahead. It's a very exciting time!
And what was reinforced to me through all those conversations, what I've learned in 15 years being in the industry area of the music education world, is the true nature and passion of most of these businesses and organizations and the people behind them. These are individuals who want to help you make music with your students more effectively, more efficiently, with greater benefits and cherished memories created in the process. They are not just trying to sell you something.
They are often the unsung heroes of music education.
This is why I think the people who avoid the exhibit hall at conferences, the ones who claim they don't want to get bombarded by salespeople, are truly missing out. And so are their programs. When you go to your state conference--and we are poised on the beginning of that season--please take the time to visit these dedicated individuals. The truly great ones are here to serve you, to act as adjunct faculty if you will, and to further your cause. Because we're all in this together.
Best wishes and prosperity in the New Year!