Lift Every Voice and Sing

The Professional Development Conference by the Louisiana Music Educators Association (LMEA) began on November 19, 2015. Although there were clinics for every level of music education, my primary focus was on the workshops provided for elementary music. From clinics on integrating math in music to developing singing voices, there was a plethora of activities for elementary music teachers.

I especially enjoyed the workshops by Bryan Burton and Anna McFarland as they focused on music from around the world. As a music educator, my goal is to expose my students to world music as authentically as possible. Along with demonstrating many children’s games from various countries, they spoke about the cultural beliefs and history of each area.

I was also extremely excited to see Dr. John Feierabend present. Along with sharing research regarding music and the brain, Dr. Feieraband shared strategies for curriculum development in early childhood music education. I am looking forward to teaching my students several of Dr. Feieraband’s activities including his “Arioso” which develops musicality through improvising simple songs.

On Saturday, I was honored to be invited to attend the luncheon for the Executive Committee and the members of the “Hall of Fame”. It was a privilege to be amongst such dedicated music educators and to learn more about the history of LMEA. I was also delighted to speak with Dr. Frank Wickes, former Director of Bands for Louisiana State University.

While I was attending the professional development activities, the halls and conference rooms of the Crowne Plaza Executive Center were filled with the sounds of music. High school students from all over the state were participating in various All-State Ensembles including jazz band, choir, orchestra, and band. I had been asked to attend an awards ceremony before the Louisiana All-State Mixed Choir performance on Saturday. During this ceremony, John W. Stafford, a band director from Lafourche Parish, was inducted into the “Hall of Fame”. LMEA also presented four educators with their “Outstanding Young Music Educators” Award. Among them was Nathan Sumrall from St. Tammany Parish. Next, Ben Heroman, Chairman of Dream Teachers, spoke to the audience about my selection as the Louisiana State Teacher of the Year. Mr. Heroman then presented me with a plaque on behalf of LMEA and Dream Teachers. My supervisor, Ms. Margaret Sharpe, was also in attendace. I couldn’t help noticing that St. Tammany Parish was well represented during the awards ceremony as presiding over the awards ceremony was Sharon McNamara-Horne. Sharon is a vocal music teacher from St. Tammany Parish and is also currently serving as the president of LMEA.

Following the awards ceremony, we were then treated to a lovely performance by the All-State Mixed Choir. Under the direction of Dr. Roland Carter, the students gave a moving performance of a wide repertoire of choral works. Although each song was fantastic, my favorite was their finale piece, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by James Weldon Johnson. As the words, “Sing a song full of hope” rang out, I thought of LMEA, Dream Teachers, and St. Tammany Parish. Each is singing a song full of hope for the future of children in Louisiana.