Music Ed Mentor Podcast #012: Live from NAfME!

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the 2017 NAfME National In-service Conference. It was the experience of a lifetime. I had a blast meeting educators, talking about burnout (thanks everyone who attended my session), and hearing students make music.

Conferences are one of the best ways for us to challenge ourselves as educators. They present a wealth of information and opportunity in a very small time frame, and taking advantage of everything can be a daunting task.

For this episode, we’re trying something completely different. Rather than one long interview with a special guest, I’m bringing you advice from more than 30 music educators and music education supporters. I asked each of them to share a piece of advice for attending a music education conference. How should you spend your time? Where is the value? Is attending a conference worth it? These folks have the answers.

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Eight Key Takeaways

“Have a plan.”

Decide what you want to learn most and attend all of those sessions. Take a deep dive into a topic and make the most of it! Remember also that it’s okay to leave a session and try another.

“Wear comfortable shoes!”

Trust us on this.

“Visit the vendors.”

Vendors are there to meet you. Take advantage of their presence and learn about cutting-edge technology, see what’s new with the tools you already use, and make connections with companies. Many vendor booths also have giveaways or other opportunities you can take advantage of.

“Use the resources you’re given.”

More and more, a conference app is the go-to resource. If the conference has one, it can keep the schedule handy, make you aware of upcoming performances, and stop you from getting lost. Even without a dedicated app, keep this information close at hand. After the conference, take advantage of the resources you got at the conference and put them to work in your classroom right away. Don’t wait!

“Attend the performances.”

Performances can be the most inspiring events at a conference. You’ll see and hear amazing students, and can often get ideas for repertoire you can use with your own ensembles.

“Network, network, network!”

Bring business cards! Conferences are a once-a-year opportunity to meet and get to know your peers. Music teachers often feel isolated, and conferences are a great way to beat back that feeling.

“Choose sessions outside of your comfort zone.”

Attend sessions you wouldn’t normally attend, and don’t be afraid to get off the beaten path. You never know when an elementary teacher might have insight into unpacking standards you can use with your orchestra, or how choir warm ups might take your band to the next level.

“Do it!”

Show up, engage, and really be present physically and mentally. Take advantage of this time and dig in!


Elisa Janson Jones specializes in helping music educators build, grow, and manage thriving school music programs. With an MBA alongside her degree in music, she is also a coach and consultant to small businesses and nonprofits around the country, and serves as the conductor of her local community band. She has been teaching music for nearly 20 years and currently holds the prestigious position of elementary music teacher at a private K-8 Catholic School in Grand Junction, Colorado. Elisa was a top presenter at the NAfME National Conference in 2017 and will be presenting at state conferences in 2018. She is the founder of the International Music Education Summit and the author of The Music Educator’s Guide to Thrive.

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