Monday, February 9, 2009


I'm preparing for my yearly trek to San Antonio, for the Texas Music Educator's Association's annual convention. For those of you not "in the know," this convention consists of approximately 40,000 public school music teachers, as well as roughly 37,000,000,000,000,000,000 music students, performing in the various Texas All-State Performing Ensembles: The Treble Choir, the Tenor-Bass Choir, the Mixed Choir, The Complicated Choir, the Choir Made Up Solely of Small Lap Dogs, the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, The Symphonic Windless Ensemble (their concert consists of panting for half an hour), The Big High School Band, The Less Big But Still Not Small High School Band, The Small High School Band, The String Orchestra, Venezuela, and the Jazz Band.

Pardon me, that was an exaggeration. I exaggerate because, once upon a time, there were very few All-State Ensembles, particularly in the vocal area. When I was a high school student, there was one All-State Choir, the Mixed Choir, and in order to get in, you had to be one of the top five students in your Area, of which there were maybe five, so it was really tough to get in (says Deb, who never made it, but would have if there had been a stinkin' treble choir that year). The increase in the number of ensembles has, of course, led to an increase of students who come to TMEA, which has led to a proportionate decrease in the number of available hotel rooms, Mexican food restaurants, and '70's-style convention hedonism.

Surprised? I sure was, my first year at TMEA. Back in those days, there was a sense of freedom during the convention, and a good deal of golf-playing, drinking, and partner-swapping went on while we "nerds" went to "workshops" to "learn to do our jobs better." The increase in students means that most of the directors actually attend workshops now, or at least go to the building where the convention is being held, which of course makes the workshops incredibly crowded, which leads to much more demand for workshops. Here is a sampling of some of the ones on my schedule for this year:

  • First Steps in Music: Vocal Development in the Early Years (no mention of whether or not stimulants will be provided at this 8:00 a.m. workshop)

  • Recharge, Renew, and Rediscover What it Takes to be a Successful Music Educator (translation: I'm going to yell at you for 45 minutes)

  • Creative Sparks (I hope this isn't about primitive firemaking)

  • Just Add Kids! (Presenter: The witch from Hansel and Gretel)

  • Capture Your Fifth Graders With Guitar (and hold them in these cages, presented by Vokken Quality Cages For Children)

My heckling isn't just limited to movies, as anyone unfortunate enough to accompany me to a workshop knows. However, cynicism aside, I do get a lot out of these conventions, and I hope to post an entry from the convention itself. I leave on Wednesday. Wish me luck!