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Finding the Groove – Building Better Communities

Miranda Altman • July 2021Modern Band • July 10, 2021

As the most challenging school year in history is now behind us, educators are looking ahead as we emerge from pandemic restrictions and wonder what the classroom landscape ahead will look like. At this year’s upcoming Modern Band Summit conference, music teachers from across the country will convene virtually to share lessons learned and collaborate with one another, focusing on retaining the momentum of digital innovation in the classroom as we transition back into a new version of normalcy.

For the past eight years, Little Kids Rock’s annual conference has joined together educators from across the country for three days of professional development, community building, music-making, and connection. This year, as in 2020, the Summit will be offered virtually July 14-16 with the goal of reaching  music teachers far and wide despite fluctuating public health conditions. 

Despite some apprehension of a virtual format in 2020, the event still saw educators finding and flourishing in the inclusive national community Little Kids Rock focuses on cultivating. The organization is building on this momentum this year with the 2021 conference theme, Finding the Groove: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Through Modern Band. The pandemic forced many teachers to innovate solutions overnight, a shift which has highlighted both gaps and solutions with regards to student equity in music classrooms.  In a recent study, 87% of educators report that their ability to use technology has improved over the past year of virtual and hybrid learning (Klein, 2021). How do we retain these positive lessons from a dark time as we enter the upcoming school year and a changed educational landscape? How can we use this as an opportunity to build upon these new digital skills and resources with a goal of fostering equity and inclusion in our music classrooms? 

Over the course of three days, attendees at the Modern Band Summit will explore how Music as a Second Language (MSL) pedagogy can be applied. More than 15 hours of professional development breakout sessions are built around cultivating culturally responsive pedagogy, music technology skills, and meeting students where they are emotionally in a post-pandemic landscape. According to Spencer Hale, Little Kid Rock’s senior manager of teaching and learning, the conference “will focus on the best practices and skills teachers have learned during remote teaching: how to better engage with students, expand accessibility, and connect classroom music to wider musical cultures. Passionate educators from across the country will bring their experience from the classroom to help this fall’s full in-person learning to be not just a return to, but an expansion on pre-covid times.”

During this time of growth and uncertainty, connections with other educators are more critical  than ever before.  It’s important as we come out of this pandemic, each with our own unique stories of loss and isolation, that we “find our people”,  and move forward towards the future collaboratively.  At this year’s Summit there will be many opportunities to foster this connection through icebreaker and networking activities, group music-making,  share-outs and a virtual band watch party where teachers from across the country are invited to work together and submit covers and original songs. 

Lastly, the Summit will feature intimate discussions with several high-profile artists who will discuss their perspective on their own music education. This year’s lineup includes Darryl McDaniels (founding member of of the iconic hip-hop group Run-DMC);  producer, bassist, drummer, and member legendary hip-hop group Public Enemy Brian Hardgroove; Lzzy Hale, the frontwoman of Grammy Award-winning, platinum-selling rock band Halestorm; electrofeminist singer, percussionist, and activist Madame Gandhi and musician, politician, and founder of the Emmy-winning PBS web-series Beat Making Lab, Pierce Freelon. 

For music educators, this much-anticipated summer break is an opportunity for needed rest, recharging, and reflection. Let’s share what was learned throughout the past fifteen months and how we’re looking to grow  with our peers to foster a culturally responsive learning environment for all students throughout the next school year and beyond. Register today for the Virtual Modern Band Summit by visiting https://www.littlekidsrock.org/mbsummit/. 

References: Klein, Allyson (2021, April 4). A Year of Tremendous Growth: How the Pandemic Forced Teachers to Master Technology. Education Week. Retrieved from:  https://www.edweek.org/technology/a-year-of-tremendous-growth-how-the-pandemic-forced-teachers-to-master-technology/2021/04

Miranda Altman is the senior director of program operations at Little Kids Rock. She has spent the past decade working with students, teachers, and administrators to adopt modern band programming within K-12 public schools and has been on the ground building the Modern Band Summit from its inception in 2013 with the goal of growing the national community of modern band educators. Miranda is currently working on her MBA from Berklee College of Music.  

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