Learning outside the classroom

Twenty-one UMD music education students attended the Minnesota Music Educators Association Conference over the Feb. 13 weekend. Though the event was a month ago, music students found that they are now using skills they learned in workshops at their school placements.  

“It has supplemented my education by providing me with a very current view of the health of the program and how to succeed in the field before I get out there,” said Brandon Smith, a senior instrumental music education major. Smith is currently gaining field experience at Northwestern High School in Wisconsin.


Dr. David Edmund, assistant professor and chair of music education, has played a key role in getting students to the conference. He is currently in his third year on campus and finds more students attending the event every year.


“When we began, I think we had eight students attend and then the second year we had around 14. We keep on growing,” Edmund said.


The conference has a wide scope with workshops on everything from pre-K music education to the collegiate level. It is meant to attract all music educators in Minnesota, which allows students to see a wide range of teaching perspectives. This also means plenty of opportunities for networking.


“We have had students who meet people — either a teacher or supervisor in a district — and they get word that ‘We think we have teachers who are retiring this year or moving onto another job,’” Edmund said. “That face time is more valuable than an email or phone call.”


Junior Justin Miller is an instrumental music education major and president at NAfME. He found talking to UMD alumni to be especially helpful.


“I saw a good number of people who graduated from UMD with music degrees recently, and I was able to talk to them about their first couple years of teaching,” Miller said. “It’s good to know because there’s a lot that you don’t learn in class.”


One of Miller’s favorite workshops was on rehearsal techniques, something that he sees every day in his ensembles, but rarely thinks about from the perspective of a teacher.


“A lot of the workshops are things that aren’t covered in our classes as much, so I get some of that from the convention,” Miller said. He also learned about how to implement Smart Music into a classroom, something he says only one instructor at UMD talks about.


This doesn’t mean that the music education major isn’t well rounded, though. The degree requirements for a B.Mus. are notoriously packed. Students need 133 credits to graduate and are meant to do so in the typical four-year plan. And the music education major is the only one to go through two teaching blocks, rather than the three that all other education majors go through.


That’s why conferences like MMEA have been so helpful to the music students. Even though they learn a lot in their classes, there’s only so much time to learn it. A lot of the teaching and rehearsal techniques are learned on the job.


“It's helping my career by providing me with a wealth of resources already that can help when I get a teaching position,” Smith said.


Edmund agrees and said that going to the conference is not only useful to students during their undergraduate degrees, but for their careers as well.


“Continued professional development is a big part of the message we’re trying to send to our students because when they leave here, they’ll have their student-teaching experience, but they’re going to learn so much in their first year of teaching,” Edmund said. “These are things that we can’t teach them because we can’t always recreate the teaching environment.”


And Miller is looking forward to going as often as he can.


“I’ll definitely make a concerted effort to go as an educator,” Miller said. “The stuff I learn there will help me be a better teacher.”


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