Students Impress at NAfME

MSU’s Music Education area strongly represented at prestigious conference for K-12 music educators.

The 2015 conference, Nashville TN, included more than 300 innovative professional development sessions. The 2016 conference will be held in Grapevine TX, November 10–13. Photo courtesy Event Coverage Nashville,
National In-Service Conference attendees enjoyed many performing groups, special keynote speakers, networking, and valuable professional development. Photo courtesy Event Coverage Nashville,

Four students from the MSU College of Music Education area were among the presenters at a premier national conference in the early fall, further attesting to the stature of the College of Music’s doctoral program in music education.

Doctoral students Mark Adams and Andrea VanDeusen were co-presenters, as were Joshua Palkki and Stuart Hill, at the October 2015 National Association for Music Educators In-service Conference in Nashville, Tenn. Both sets of students offered creative strategies for the classroom based on their current research and practices to audiences packed with music program leaders, administrators, classroom educators, collegiate students and private studio teachers.

“Being asked to present at NAfME is a tremendous honor, as many persons submit proposals, but few of those proposals are actually selected,” says MSU Professor of Music Education Cynthia Taggart. “That four MSU doctoral students were selected to present is evidence that our students and graduates are leaders in the music education discourse nationally and are changing the shape of music education in K-12 schools.”

Founded in 1907, NAfME is among the world’s largest arts education organizations and works to ensure that every student has access to a well-balanced, comprehensive, and high-quality program of music instruction taught by qualified teachers. Although a variety of organizations hold state and regional conferences for K-12 music educators, NAfME is the sole organization that holds conferences, events, and activities with a national scope, encompassing all aspects of music education.

The presentations by the MSU doctoral students mirrored the overall theme of the 2015 national conference to “empower creativity.” Palkki and Hill’s presentation “Using Circle Singing to Enliven Choral Creativity” suggested a new approach to the choral classroom built on the co-creation of improvised, layer-based “circle songs.” Though similar forms of singing have long existed, Bobby McFerrin popularized the form of singing presented by Palkki and Hill.

“Josh and I are both big fans of Bobby McFerrin,” says Hill. “The type of layered improvisation he applied struck us as being applicable in choral classes.”

Palkki expanded.

“We were both very excited about presenting this concept to other teachers,” says Palkki of the presentation that included audio and video samples. “It was great to be able to start the conversation and have them join in.”

Adams and VanDeusen’s presentation, “The Creative Ensemble: Borrowing from the Spectrum of Group Music Making,” challenged music educators to bridge the gap between what happens musically in school and how students experience music outside the classroom.

“Our presentation was interactive,” says VanDeusen. “And since the conference was geared toward in-service music teachers, it was a great way to engage with teachers from around the country.”

Adams agreed that sharing similar research interests and classroom methods with VanDeusen helped in shaping an engaging presentation. He said, too, that being selected to present at the NAfME in-service conference is further evidence of how well MSU is preparing its doctoral students.

“The faculty and other Ph.D. students here are helpful, supportive, and challenge me on a daily basis,” Adams says. “The opportunities this program provides are second to none. I’m confident I will be prepared to teach in higher education.”

Circle Singing Videos

Videos courtesy Joshua Palkki


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