As I prepare to attend the annual Midwest Clinic in Chicago next week, I feel compelled to talk about the purpose and usefulness of conventions on our development as music educators. Just like anything else in life, you only get out of a convention what you put into it. If you choose to skip every concert and clinic and just go shopping instead, you may not come back from Midwest with anything useful that you can use with your students. Why not make it a point this year when you attend Midwest or your state convention to get to more clinics and concerts than your normally do. I firmly believe that you can even get something out of a bad concert and a bad clinic. If nothing else, it will help you know what not to do when school starts up again in January! I always tell attendees of any of my clinics that I hope there are things they disagree with that I say at my clinics. That is healthy and will help you to remind yourself what your philosophy of teaching really is.
Also, don’t discount the social part of conventions. If your after exhibit hours gatherings at the Hilton bar or at a nice restaurant includes some meaningful conversation about teaching, music and learning what others do, that is wonderful. A lot can be learned just by hanging out with great teachers and hearing how they do things. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. We are all still learning and get something out of these positive interactions with our colleagues. We are all in this together, and I hope that we are more about how to improve the musicianship of our students than winning trophies, so why not help each other out while we have fun doing it. I have fond memories of my days as a band director in Tampa. All of us local directors would hang out together all the time and just talk “shop”. I learned an awful lot this way and you can too at the Midwest Clinic or whatever convention through the concerts, at the clinics or even in the bar. Focus on what is important this year at whatever conventions you attend. Enjoy!