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USM Director of Bands Jackie Townsend presents at MMEA Conference

Jackie Townsend

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By Jackie Townsend, assistant professor of music and director of bands in the USM School of Music

I was honored to have the opportunity to present a session at the annual Maine Music Education Association (MMEA) Conference in Orono on May 16. Ever since I moved to Maine from Texas in July of last year, the people in this state have been nothing but welcoming and encouraging to me, and my colleagues in the music education field are no exception to that!

The session that I presented was called The Art of B.S. (Brilliant Substitutions): Effective Programming for Any Instrumentation. It dealt with a topic that I feel is among the most important of our duties as music educators and performers — selecting high quality music.

Think about it — the music that students perform in a band, choir, orchestra, steel drum band, musical theatre production (and on and on!) is the very essence of their experience in the program. It can make or break the ability of students to develop their artistry and creativity. It is our "textbook" in the music classroom.

So, in my opinion, students deserve the very best music we can find for them! However, this can be particularly challenging for those of us in the music field — especially if you find yourself conducting a group of students with limited access to resources, or you have unbalanced instrumentation (like 16 percussionists and only 1 flute).

I know about these experiences firsthand, as it was a major component of my job when I was a high school band director in Ohio. After I moved to Maine and began to meet area music educators and observe their classroom rehearsals, I felt an immediate sense of understanding about the challenges that we all face, and that inspired my decision to give this presentation at MMEA.

Eugene CorporonI have to say that I was very humbled by the attendance at the session. So many eager and supportive Maine music educators took the time to hear me speak about this! I am incredibly grateful for that. We were able to dialogue about solutions to common problems faced, and I was excited that there was also intense interest in the upcoming USM Conducting Workshop that we will be hosting in July with Eugene Corporon (University of North Texas).

This will be another collaborative event that we will be providing to area music educators and performers to address issues of repertoire selection and conducting skills, both of which are absolutely essential to communicate the mysterious and wonderful art that is music to the world around us. I am beyond thrilled to be able to contribute to the conversations we are having about the arts here in Maine, and I can't wait to continue those conversations for years to come!