National Association for Music Education – Harnessing the Power of Relationships

NAfME PresidentNational • March 2023UpClose • March 13, 2023

Now more than ever the world needs a deeper sense of community and unity.  As the dissonance of political agendas, global unrest, economic and social inequities, and even educational reform continues to divide various populations, one essential part of life that has historically brought people together and offers much-needed harmony, healing, and belonging is MUSIC.  Since the dawn of the earliest civilizations, music has been an integral way that humans experience life.  The new NAfME Belief Statement states this best – “Music communicates and connects people across all time and cultures. Music unlocks human creative expression and is a lens to the experiences and interpretations of the world.  Music is basic to human wholeness through our emotions, intellect, and physical and spiritual well-being.  Just as the elements of music combine to create a sonic landscape of beauty and meaning, we too can work in tandem to harness the power of music to make a difference for the students in our schools and the people in our communities.  It is our collective strength and commitment to advancing music education that will have the greatest impact, and the pathway towards building a more creative and music-inspired society begins by developing one relationship at a time.

Relationships are a funny thing and are often hard to quantify.  The strongest and most lasting relationships are built on trust and require time, care, and effective communication.  Both parties must have a willingness to listen and compromise.  Relationships can take years to build but can disappear in an instant.  Sometimes relationships are easy, and everything just clicks.  It could be love at first sight or just the way some things serendipitously click and fall into place.  Other times, relationships can be a struggle and no matter how hard you work or how much you try, it just never seems quite right.  

Relationships also take on many forms such as the connection we have with other people or the bond we have with things such our pets, our favorite flavor of ice cream, sports teams, or the newest song on our playlist.  Relationships can also exist between people who live in the same community, county, or state or between organizations, businesses, and places of employment.  What defines a relationship in its simplest form is sharing something in common – a belief, a mission, a vision, or a goal.  In the case of most people reading this article, the love of music and an interest in student development and growth provides the foundation for all of us to develop a deeper relationship around music education.  

NAfME’s new strategic plan (adopted in the fall of 2022) places great importance on continuing to build and strengthen relationships.  This can be clearly seen in the new mission statement that states “NAFME is a collaborative community that supports music educators and advocates for equitable access for music education.”  Each of the cornerstones – advocacy & public policy, music teacher education & research, and professional growth & learning, as well as the keystone of equity in music education – outlines goals for collaborating with the state MEAs, other associations both inside and outside of education and the arts, and with our industry partners.  Only by working together will we achieve the big goal of ensuring every child has access to an equitable, relevant, and meaningful music education.

As we look to harness the power of relationships to advance music education, the word synergy comes to mind.  Meriam-Webster defines synergy as “a mutually advantageous conjunction or compatibility of distinct business participants or elements”.  Personally, I define synergy as synthesized energy.  Breaking this down even further, I believe when two or more people or entities combine their individual ideas and resources the result is the creation of an energy or force.  Synergy produces a greater power through the collective rather than just the simple sum of the parts.  As Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser likes to say, “In music, two plus two doesn’t equal four, it equals 44, 88, 196, or more.”  This is also true in relationships.  There is exponential power to collaborating and building on the strengths of others.  It is our similarities that bring us together, but it is capitalizing on our unique attributes that strengthens and grows the bonds.  

In today’s very upside-down world, working together and investing in our relationships is critical.  We are all striving towards the same goals – more students having the opportunity to make more music and supporting music is a lifelong pursuit, both during school and well into adulthood.  We need to be intentional about building our relationships and realize that every collaboration matters.  There is real power in the synergy that is created through each conversation, collaboration, partnership, and relationship.  It’s up to each of us to make it happen, and NAfME’s doors are open to all who support music education.

Everyone at NAfME offers our sincere gratitude to Mike Lawson and Col. Palmatier for having the vision to establish a larger connection for our profession through the relationships that are built through this magazine.  NAfME is honored to be a partner and share our work through this column.

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