2021 NMEA Election Candidates

President-Elect Candidates

Debbie Martinez

BIO: Debbie Martinez is a 1995 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Omaha where she received her Bachelor of Music Education. She received her Masters Degree in Music Education with an emphasis in String Education from Florida State University in 2001, where she studied with Dr. Michael Allen, Dr. Clifford K. Madsen, and Dr. Pamela Ryan. In 2006 and 2020, she was recognized as Outstanding School Orchestra Teacher by the Nebraska chapter of the American String Teachers Association, and was named Nebraska’s National Federation of State High School Association’s (NFHS) 2018-19 Outstanding Music Educator of the Year. She was also honored by the BYU Alumni Association with the 2019 Golden Apple Award, and the Caryl and Katherine Brown Award for Excellence in High School Teaching 2019, awarded by the Millard Public Schools Foundation. Currently, she is a Performing Arts Department Head at Millard North High School, which was recognized as the 2019 Exemplary Music Program by the Nebraska Music Education Association. Mrs. Martinez directs 3 orchestras that serve over 170 string players, assists with choir, and teaches a music technology course and adaptive music appreciation course. Besides enjoying her 21st year in Millard, she also loves performing with the MAHR String Quartet, and most of all, spending time with her incredibly supportive husband Bob, and their two children.

CANDIDATE QUESTIONS

What does Nebraska’s music education of the future look like?

The future of music education in Nebraska is inclusive, multi-faceted, and ground-breaking. Ideally, this would encompass access to responsive, high-quality music education for all Nebraskans, of every age, community, and culture. We have strong traditions upon which to build and maintain, and there are many new avenues to explore and incorporate! I believe music education has the potential to be woven into the fabric of our communities, and that music has the power to transform and uplift people. Building an organization that supports educators, classrooms, and opportunities for music access is our role in making this future a reality.

What specific strengths, skills, and ideas do you possess that will make you a better member of the board of directors?

NMEA is at a critical juncture.  As an organization, we are growing and changing, and our leadership must respond to and adapt with the demands on our organization.  My top Gallup strengths include adaptability, empathy, input and developer.  While serving as a leader in both personal and professional arenas, I have found these strengths to be key to hearing and supporting others, getting the best data to make decisions, and working with my team to develop great ideas to their fullest potential.  Furthermore, I believe I bring a unique perspective, having taught across three districts over 23 years, with experience in elementary band and orchestra, middle school orchestra, high school orchestra and choir, as well as music technology and adaptive music.  I am excited to see how my skills and strengths would blend with the rest of the board. I can envision us working together to continue the great work currently being done with our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and access (DEIA), expanding professional development, and annual convention.  

What do you feel NMEA leadership needs to do to strengthen music education, the profession, and our organization?

We need to examine our processes and policies to address questions of progress: What is our role in supporting, and responsibility to, every music teacher and student in the state?  What is our role in leading music education in the nation?  Are we operating in a way that demonstrates our commitment to DEIA? What can we do to be upheld as an example, a go-to place for gold standard music education?  I want teachers from other states to say “I wonder how Nebraska does this?”   I think our membership and leadership has what it takes to make Nebraska a destination, an example of what music for all looks like in practice.  A top priority is to utilize member input to ensure highly relevant, accessible professional development opportunities so educators can feel confident leading classrooms and programs that empower all students through music.  We have a great start with our conference sessions (both remote and in-person), performing groups, and All-State ensembles.  Our challenge now is to meet educators where they are by exploring and implementing best-practice professional development opportunities beyond current offerings.   NMEA leadership must also continue and expand our connections with community partners and policy makers to solidify commitments to supporting music education, and voice the long-lasting benefits of involvement in music to tap into the groundswell of support we need to ensure the future of our profession.

Wes Hansmeyer

BIO: Wes Hansmeyer is a 1996 graduate of Nebraska Wesleyan University, Lincoln, NE, where he earned a Bachelor of Music in Choral Music Education; and a 2006 graduate of Doane College, Crete, NE, where he earned a Masters in Educational Leadership. Wes is currently in his 26th year of teaching and is currently a vocal music teacher at Norris High School in Firth, NE (18 of those years).

At Norris, Wes teaches Titan Singers, Titan Chorale, Titanaires Choir, Gold, 68th Street Singers, Titanaires Show Choir, 6th Grade Choir, 7th Grade Choir, 8th Grade Choir, Piano Class, and assists with 6th Grade Band. Wes also co-directs the fall high school musical and spring 7th/8th grade musical. In 2009, the Nebraska Choral Directors Association chose Wes as the recipient of the Nebraska Choral Director of the Year and in 2011 Nebraska Wesleyan presented Wes with the Outstanding Music Alumni Award. Wes is currently a Past-President of the Nebraska Choral Directors Association and also served as Show Choir R&S Chair.

Wes is married to Jane and they have an 8-year-old son, Marcus; a 14-year-old son, Thomas; and a 4-year-old Shih-Poo, Soleil.

CANDIDATE QUESTIONS

What does Nebraska’s music education of the future look like?

I believe the future of music education in Nebraska is bright.  If there is one important lesson we have learned (or had reinforced) during COVID19, it is that teachers and students need live human contact and humans need the arts!  Successful experiences, skills, life lessons, respect for one another, discipline, creativity, and team-building are just a few of the important benefits students gleam from participating in music.  I believe what happens in our classrooms and studios absolutely helps shape students into productive and responsible citizens.  Certainly, there are going to be challenges.  I have spoken to colleagues who are concerned about staffing, funding, numbers in their ensembles, instructional minutes, administrative support, community support, scheduling and other important concerns.  All of these concerns are so important when working to build or maintain a successful music program.  The great news is that these concerns are there because all of us are there.  Music teachers are creative, hard-working, passionate, innovative, and connected.  Because of what we do ourselves and because of organizations like NMEA who help bring us together; provide resources and opportunities; and offer messages of inspiration and encouragement; all of us are able to work together and thrive as individual teachers and members of the Nebraska Music Educators Association.

What specific strengths, skills, and ideas do you possess that will make you a better member of the board of directors?

One favorite memory from my 10 years on the Nebraska Choral Directors Association board as Show Choir R&S Chair, President-Elect, President, and Past-President is getting to observe colleagues working with their students in warm-up rooms during NCDA Show Choir Festivals and during sessions at NCDA conferences.  I was able to listen, understand, and appreciate their expertise, which became a critical part of my role as R&S Chair and President.  Nebraska students are so fortunate to have many wonderful teachers dedicating themselves to teaching, inspiring, and encouraging students to excel at music and life.  Because of this and other experiences, as well as my overall values and beliefs about how to treat others and work with people, I certainly do not believe I would be a “better member.”  I do believe, however, I will be a valuable and successful member and leader who will listen, evaluate, communicate, and make decisions which benefit the membership as a whole; move the organization forward; and help provide support, resources, and a community for music teachers which will continue to advance music education in Nebraska and beyond.  As far as ideas go, one of the most important tasks I would have immediately would be to build relationships with association members and plan a conference that does the things which mirror what I have discussed above.  Our Nebraska music educators need to be inspired, supported, reenergized, entertained, moved, challenged, questioned, advocated for, befriended, mentored, informed, and so much more!

What do you feel NMEA leadership needs to do to strengthen music education, the profession, and our organization?

NMEA must support all music educators.  NMEA is about music education, not just choirs, bands, orchestras, general music classrooms, and studios.  NMEA, for many of us, is comfort food.  Many of the traditions and memories we have from past connections, conferences, performances, friends, events, and professional relationships we have fostered all give us good feelings and a sense of security.  I believe it is important that NMEA leadership work diligently to protect important traditions while also thinking outside the box to come up with new ideas to support, inspire, and instruct our membership as well as move the organization forward.  Solid traditions are just as important as new ideas.  Organizational strength is built from the foundation and is shared by building relationships and bridges from inside our organization out into the world.  NMEA must be willing to continue to effectively advocate for music education at local, state, and national levels and be a help and voice for our members at all stages of their careers.  We need teacher recruitment; mentoring for new members; quality professional development for all members; recognition for successes and years of service; opportunities to showcase soloists and small and large ensembles; and structures to keep our retired members involved by contributing their stories, expertise, and insights.  The strength of NMEA comes from our membership.  Strengthening the membership strengthens music education, the profession, and our organization.

CONTACT INFORMATION
Email [email protected]
Phone 402-730-3707
School Address

Norris High School

25211 S 68th Street

Firth, NE 68358

 

Director of Auditions Candidates

Doug Bogatz

BIO: Doug Bogatz has been the Director of Instrumental Music at Fremont High School since 2016. There, he directs the Symphonic Band, Concert Band, Jazz Bands, Orchestra, Tiger Marching Band, and Pep Band. He also teaches Music Appreciation. Previously, Doug was the Assistant Band Director at Millard West High School in Omaha and Washburn Rural High School in Topeka, Kansas.

Doug holds a Bachelor of Music Education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Master of Music with a concentration in Music Education from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. At UNL, he was an active member of the jazz ensembles, concert bands, Cornhusker Marching Band, Kappa Kappa Psi, and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. He also was active in chamber groups such as the Westbrook Saxophone Quartet. Outside college, Doug was a member of the Colts Drum & Bugle Corps from Dubuque, Iowa.

Doug is an active member of NAfME, ASCAP, NMEA, and NSBA, and has served on the Board for NSBA as the Public Relations Chair. He currently lives in Bennington with his wife Lindsey and son Gordon.

CANDIDATE QUESTIONS

What does Nebraska’s music education of the future look like?

I believe the pandemic allowed for a lot of reflection and experimentation that will ultimately be a net positive for our music students. For me personally, the "gaps" in the schedule from cancelled contests and festivals gave me space to finally try projects and lessons I've put off by telling myself there was no time. Though there were some duds - and I would think most educators would rather not repeat this past year - there were so many positive and educational experiences for the students and myself that led to permanent changes for the better that wouldn't be there otherwise. Hearing from my colleagues I can attest this experience is not exclusive to just me.

Panning out a little, one of the many things we learned the hard way during the pandemic was just how big the access gap to reliable broadband internet is from family to family. This is particularly acute in mostly rural states like ours, but it isn't unheard of for lower income families from any setting to be "priced out" and/or devoid of quality access options. The effects of this can trickle down to a student's music education experience very quickly when considering how much media and/or online resources play into our field. Thankfully, there does seem to be some movement nationwide to help lessen this gap, but in the process we need to continue to consider our approaches toward equity to all students, especially if we experience extended closures in the future.

What specific strengths, skills, and ideas do you possess that will make you a better member of the board of directors?

I believe I have a lot to offer our educators through experience I have accrued from my career so far. This would include my tenure in the field entering its second decade and time spent as the Public Relations Chair on the board of NSBA. Throughout this time I have employed an open-mindedness and hunger for knowledge from educational opportunities offered by the state, region, and country. Because of this, I can offer a fresh perspective to the board while keeping my eyes and ears open for newer and/or better things on the horizon. This approach particularly comes in handy with a position that relies on as much technological skill as it does. As it happens, this is part of the reason why I feel I contributed as much as I did during my time on the NSBA board.

I relish the opportunity to meet and learn from educators from all kinds of backgrounds and experiences and a position on the board would only strengthen my ability to do so. I can then use what I learn to better help all educators across the state, particularly those just starting out in the field.

What do you feel NMEA leadership needs to do to strengthen music education, the profession, and our organization?

There are two general improvements I will initially focus on if I am so honored to be elected. First, specific to the Director of Auditions position, I believe we need to come to a consensus as to what our All-State Ensembles are truly meant to represent. Should our ensembles be a collection of the highest-achieving musicians in the state? Or should we strive to represent as many regions, situations, and backgrounds as we can? Is there an effective middle ground? Is it appropriate to have a "blanket" system across all disciplines? I cannot pretend to have all of the answers, but I believe these are the types of questions we need to answer in order to better craft the audition process - or processes, perhaps - around them.

The second, more general improvement I would like to see is in the overall balance and quality of available resources and clinics across all disciplines of music education. We are lucky, to be sure, to have access to quality subsidiary organizations such as NSBA, NCDA, or NeASTA, but the "umbrella" organization really should be a primary resource for the vast majority of educators in our state and I'm not quite convinced it is. Specifically, I would love for us to look from multiple perspectives at our offerings at Conference/In-Service in the fall - the one time of year where we all collect together. What an opportunity for us to stay true to our mission that includes "building a robust statewide community"!

CONTACT INFORMATION
Email [email protected]
Phone 402-216-8047

 

Leah Purdy

BIO: Leah Purdy is the Director of Choirs/Musicals at North Platte High School and has been teaching for 21 years.  She graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan University with Bachelor of Music degree and later from UNK with a Master of Music Ed degree.  She is a long time member of NMEA, NAfME, ACDA, NCDA and NSEA.  She directs four choirs and an all school musical each year as well as teaching as an adjunct professor for Mid-Plains Community College.  She is a frequent judge and clinician for music contests and festivals in the in the western part of the state.  Leah is also a performer, enjoying being on stage in community theater as well as frequently serving as the soprano soloist for performances of The Messiah with the Nebraska Chamber Orchestra. She has served her local education association by serving on the negotiations committee and is also very active at First United Methodist Church.  She was the  Nebraska Wesleyan University Outstanding Young Alumni in 2007 and the North Platte Public Schools Teacher of the Year in 2014 Leah is married to Ryan Purdy, President of Mid-Plains Community College, and they have three children:  Elliott (20-UNL), Carly (17) and Addisyn (13).  

CANDIDATE QUESTIONS: 

What does Nebraska’s music education of the future look like?

I believe that, courtesy of the pandemic, everything looks a little different than it did a couple of years ago, including music education. We are all eager to get back to “normal” in our classrooms! However, I learned a LOT about my own teaching style and the resources available to me when we were all I quarantine. And while I never want to go back to that again, I think that the silver lining in all of that was the fact that we all had to reinvent the wheel a little bit in order to continue making music. There are tons of technology resources out there that I likely would have never touched without it being necessary! And many of those resources (things like Google Classroom, recorded summative assessment and auditions, electronic copies of music) are things that I and many other teachers will continue to use. The basics will always remain the same. We will continue to cultivate relationships with our students, be their biggest supporters in and out of our ensembles, and teach them to be musicians for life. The means by which we get there will continue to change and evolve over time, but nothing will ever replace making music with other humans together in the same room! That is timeless!

What specific strengths, skills, and ideas do you possess that will make you a better member of the board of directors?

Music education is in my blood. My dad was my band director and is still a true mentor to me as a teacher. I literally grew up around NMEA as my dad was always involved. It has been a joy as I became an adult to work alongside many of the teachers that I admired through my father as I was growing up. Additionally, I am an “outside the box” thinker. When a challenge presents itself, I can be relentless (or so I’m told) in working to find a solution. I am not afraid to do things different or stray from tradition, because sometimes, that is exactly what our students need. I also have a unique perspective based on where I live. Western Nebraska music education most certainly looks different than it does in the more heavily populated areas of the state. It is important to be assured that those areas are represented on the board by someone who has experience with the specific challenges that it presents. It is our duty to do everything we can to provide quality music education to all students in our state, and after 21 years in Western Nebraska, I could be a voice for just that purpose! I am eager to work with all teachers in the state to learn how we can all best support one another to best serve our students!

What do you feel NMEA leadership needs to do to strengthen music education, the profession, and our organization?

As a candidate for Auditions Chair, I think it is important to continue to evaluate how we audition our students for ensembles, teacher feedback to the audition process, the fairness and equity of our audition process, and discuss possible changes that could be made. We need to keep that dialogue open in order to best serve the music students in our state. As always, we need to be looking for ways to promote our profession, both for our students and for the recruitment of future music educators. While we all know how important music is to our world, sometimes those who don’t live in our bubble need a little reminder from time to time. The more NMEA can do to promote student successes in different areas of the state, the stronger our profession and organization will become. People in our communities WANT that good news! With social media at our fingertips, there are many ways to celebrate and promote student and school accomplishments, no matter how big or small! In addition, I now realize how important music education is to the mental health and well-being of our students. Music provides a safe space for students to be themselves and helping our communities understand that is becoming more and more important every day. Music education in our state is already very strong, but if we continue to cultivate ideas and ways to support our students each and every day, we can make it even stronger!

CONTACT INFORMATION
Home Address

334 W Weaver Hts

North Platte, NE 69101

School Address

North Platte High School

1220 W 2nd St.

North Platte, NE 69101

 

Director of Band Affairs Candidates

Chaz Fonda

BIO: Chaz Fonda is currently in his tenth year of teaching, and sixth as Instrumental Director at Bennington High School and Middle School. He earned a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 2012, a Master of Arts degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Iowa in 2015, and is completing his Master of Arts degree in Music Education at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. 

During his time at Bennington Public Schools, Chaz has led successful efforts to restructure the band program and curriculum to best fit the needs of students in the district. His main focus and philosophy has been the development of the whole student through instrumental music. This has resulted in a positive culture of high expectations and personal accountability that has noticeable impacts in and out of the music classroom. 

In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Chaz enjoys adjudicating at festivals in the area, and was Nebraska’s representative for the NAfME’s ‘Experimental Ensembles’ Pilot Teacher Program in 2019. He was also honored to receive the NSBA Jack R. Snider Award in 2019. Outside of school, Chaz enjoys being outdoors and spending time with his husband, Jeff, and their dog, Hunter.

 CANDIDATE QUESTIONS

What does Nebraska’s music education of the future look like?

The future of music education brings with it many challenges and how we view that will define us as an organization. If one thing is true of our experience during the pandemic, it is that music educators view challenges as an opportunity for growth and change. The time we spent remote learning reinforced that music education is much more than the contests, competitions, and ratings. We provide a unique and necessary avenue for teaching students to be better people through common goals and shared visions. 

With the expanded use of the internet and social media, students are more interconnected than ever. This brings with it many challenges and opportunities for our students. In this fast-paced digital world, music educators have a distinctive role in helping students become better digital citizens, and to become more empathetic and understanding of others. There is no better way to help bring people together than through the universal language of music! Teaching students the similarities shared between us can increase this connectedness, and the differences that make us
who we are should be celebrated. 

To achieve a high level of success, we, as educators, must also appreciate our differences in our varying communities across the state. There are many paths up the mountain to achieve common goals. What works in one area of our state may not be the most effective path to success in another. Coming together to work towards our common goals with these unique perspectives can help our students in varying situations.

What specific strengths, skills, and ideas do you possess that will make you a better member of the board of directors?

I am an organized person who is highly motivated to do the work necessary to provide the best opportunities for students. I am detail-oriented, and I take the time to consider all options to determine the most effective and beneficial way of achieving a goal. I enjoy focusing my energy upon a specific issue and coming up with an effective plan of action to solve it. Self-reflection and process improvements are things that I have made a habit of during my career, and I feel they would benefit our organization. 

In addition, the furthering of servant leadership is also a main motivator for me as a director. The selfless prioritization of the team's growth and well-being is the foundation of my teaching philosophy. Putting aside personal ambitions for the purpose of enhancing music education in Nebraska is important to our future success as an organization. This type of leadership has been consistently practiced and modeled by the NMEA Board and membership across the state. I have always felt that I could be vulnerable with directors in Nebraska and would be elated to be given the opportunity to provide this support for others by serving in this position. 

What do you feel NMEA leadership needs to do to strengthen music education, the profession, and our organization?

I appreciated the NMEA’s leadership in preparation for teaching in a pandemic. The resources provided to educators and the advocacy initiatives were beneficial to continuing effective music education this past year. Anticipating issues in education and working in conjunction with NAfME can help educators in our state advocate for more student contact time, more resources, and better funding. 

To reemphasize, we are in a constant state of change as a profession and as a society. To best be proactive to this change, we must consistently evaluate our processes and procedures as an organization to ensure that our students and educators have a strong foundation for success. To achieve this, it is imperative as a Board to survey the needs of directors across the state so we may better address them. To discover solutions to issues brought forward, it would be beneficial to research successful practices in the region and across the country. Collaboration among music educators can extend beyond our borders to gather new perspectives and possibilities for our organization. We have accomplished a great amount, and with a focus on the future, the NMEA can remain a strong advocate for music, and a relevant resource for educators in Nebraska.

CONTACT INFORMATION
Phone 402-672-8744
Work Email [email protected]
Personal Email [email protected]

 

Dan Sodomka

BIO: Dan Sodomka is the Director of Bands at Aurora High School.  He holds a Bachelor of Music Education degree and Master of Music Performance degree from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. He also holds a Master of Educational Leadership degree from Doane College. Before teaching in Aurora, Dan was the Director of Bands in St. Paul, Nebraska. Throughout his teaching career, his bands have received numerous Superior ratings at District Music Contests, Jazz Band Festivals, and Marching Competitions. In 1999, Dan was awarded the Nebraska Television Network’s Outstanding Teacher for the month of November. He was awarded the Jack R. Snider Young Band Director Award in 2001 by the Nebraska State Bandmasters Association. In 2011, he received the William C. & Delight M. Eloe Inspirational Academic Leadership Award. Dan has had the honor of serving as President and Membership Chair for the Nebraska State Bandmasters Association. He is one of three directors for the Masonic All-Star Marching Band that performs annually at the Nebraska Shrine Bowl football game. Dan is a member of NMEA, NSBA, PBM, and NSEA. When not teaching, Dan is active performing with the Cathedral Brass, Hastings Symphony, and with the BD and the Boys rock band.  

CANDIDATE QUESTIONS

What does Nebraska’s music education of the future look like?

No one knows what the future holds, especially after 2020. However, I am very encouraged by what I have witnessed from teachers, music teachers especially, on how well they have adapted and persevered through the unknown. I believe for many of us, 2020 opened our eyes on being more acceptive, creative, and more willing to ask for (and receive) help. We have learned how to teach via “zoom,” develop new strategies on how to assess our students and became more creative on new performance format/opportunities. I believe that technology will continue to grow in importance to reach students, and parents, and that the ”formal concert format” will continue to evolve into other performance opportunities to showcase the talents of our students. I also believe that the comradery and collegiality between music teachers will continue to grow stronger to gain more ideas, and examples, on how to accomplish these changes. We have learned that we are “Stronger Together” and that this will help us, as a profession, continue to grow and prosper and allow us to give our students the best experience possible.  All of this gives me confidence that the future of music education in Nebraska will be relevant and strong long into the future.

What specific strengths, skills, and ideas do you possess that will make you a better member of the board of directors?

If elected, I would bring several years of teaching and leadership experience to the board. I have served in leadership positions with the Nebraska State Bandmasters Association (President and Membership Chair) and with my local teacher associations. I possess strong organizational and communication skills. I believe that these qualities and experiences will allow me to voice ideas, suggestions, or concerns with background knowledge and experience to back it up. I also believe that I have a good relationship with and understanding of music educators, especially instrumental educators, throughout the entire state. I have taught in two schools, with different music classifications, and have mentored teachers in all class sizes and locations. Having this background knowledge has allowed me to identify, listen, and appreciate all of the different dynamics that our membership experiences – especially that of the All-State Music experience.

What do you feel NMEA leadership needs to do to strengthen music education, the profession, and our organization?

NMEA has done a good job of promoting the organization and music education as a whole. Although the organization has done a good job, there is still more that can be done. We just completed a school year where there was not an in-person convention to attend. This was a good wake up call for many teachers to see that they cannot just rely on yearly conventions to learn more teaching strategies, new music, new products, new fundraisers, and most importantly – collegiality. I believe that the leadership of each music organization, especially NMEA, needs to lead the way in developing more ways to reach out to teachers, and administrators, with new strategies and information on what they would receive at a convention.  I also believe that these organizations need to develop ways for their members to have more organized opportunities to communicate with each other on a professional and personal basis. I believe by coming up with more innovative ways to offer and present information and to have more communication within our profession, will not only strengthen NMEA, but will also strengthen our teaching profession as a whole.

Samantha Hahn

BIO: Samantha Hahn has been the director of bands at Norfolk Catholic Schools in Norfolk, Nebraska since 2015. Her duties include directing the beginning bands, Junior High and High School Jazz and Concert Bands, Pep Band, Private Lessons, Spring Musical Director, and Senior Class Sponsor. Prior to her tenure at Norfolk Catholic, she taught at Plainview Public Schools for five years.

Mrs. Hahn is from Pierce, Nebraska and earned her BSE in Music Education in 2010 and her MSE in Music Education in 2017, both from Wayne State College in Wayne, Nebraska.

Samantha is an active performer and plays trumpet in the Northeast Area Jazz Ensemble, the Crazy 8 Brass Band, and the Saint Mary’s Brass Quartet. She is an active adjudicator and is in demand as a clinician.

Samantha is a member of NMEA, NAfME, NSBA, currently serving as the Class C Representative, and has been a staff member of the Nebraska Ambassadors of Music since 2016. She serves on various committees and boards throughout the state including the Northeast Nebraska All Star Marching Band Board since its establishment in 2015 and the Class C All State Honor Band Board.

The Hahn family resides in Norfolk with her husband and high school sweetheart Jared and their two children Brixton Elliot (4) and Kennan Everley (1). They enjoy summer t-ball, golfing, and spending time together as a family.

CANDIDATE QUESTIONS

What does Nebraska’s music education of the future look like?  

I believe the educators in this state have an uncanny ability to adapt and evolve with inevitable changes and circumstances. Because of that, music education in Nebraska has a strong future. We have, without a doubt, experienced one of the most challenging years in our lifetime. As a result, I believe the future will look a little differently as we transform into a post-pandemic society.

Music education will come with new ideas on digital learning, hybrid learning, and a stronger platform for face-to-face learning in the process. With increased collaboration and communication, I believe we have endless ideas to share.

With our abilities to think on our feet and overcome uncharted obstacles, we will push ourselves to new levels of student connection.

What specific strengths, skills, and ideas do you possess that will make you a better member of the board of directors?

I possess strong organizational skills and feel this skill set enables me to take on projects that can seem overwhelming to others. I feel this trait prepares me to troubleshoot as the inevitable issues arise. With these potential obstacles, the strain of some situations is alleviated. I think this is an important trait needed in this type of position and one that can be obvious if it is not possessed.

The ability to see the small picture as well as the larger picture is a strong character trait. It is important to consider both the small and larger pictures when moving forward with a decision. I enjoy weighing these factors and piecing them together for a quality end product.

Additionally, I feel I have a level of tenacity that keeps projects and ideas moving toward the end goal. If I am charged with a task, I work diligently to see it through fruition.

What do you feel NMEA leadership needs to do to strengthen music education, the profession, and our organization? 

I think NMEA has a great platform to allow for a major collaboration drive. I think an avenue for this is important, now more than ever. I would really like to see an outreach for this and a potential project in place to allow for more collaboration among all age groups, ensembles, and regions of the state. I am a firm believer in the need to continue learning and asking questions. As teachers, we need to never stop learning. I believe this is a crucial foundation for our field and our organization.

Additionally, I believe communication is something that can always be strengthened. With recent situations, I think it is very easy to become numb to digital communication. As a result, we need to continue to explore additional options to ensure effective communication with the membership. Communication is a factor that affects our daily teaching including working with students, parents, and administrations. I would like to see communication between the board and membership that is transparent and worthwhile, even if that means less correspondence.

CONTACT INFORMATION
Email [email protected]
Cell Phone 402-750-5270
School Address

Norfolk Catholic Schools

2300 Madison Ave.

Norfolk, NE 68701

School Phone 402-371-2748

 

Director of College/University Affairs Candidates

Brian Alber

BIO: Dr. Brian Alber is an Associate Professor of Music and Teacher Education and serves as the Graduate Chair for the Masters of Arts in Education program at UNK. Serving as the Assistant Director of Bands, he co-directs the "Pride of the Plains" Marching Band and directs the Symphonic Band. Along with his conducting responsibilities, Dr. Alber teaches undergraduate courses in Secondary Music Methods, Teaching in a Democratic Society, and Classroom Management and Assessment. Within the graduate music program, Dr. Alber teaches Foundations in Music Education, Introduction to Music Research, and also serves on various capstone committees.

An alumnus of UNK, where he completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Education, Dr. Alber has also completed a Master of Music degree in Wind Conducting at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and a Doctor of Arts degree in Wind Band Conducting at the University of Northern Colorado. His teaching experience includes serving as a Graduate Teaching Assistant at both UNL and UNC, and teaching high school band for seven years at York, Aurora, Holdrege, and Plattsmouth high schools.

CANDIDATE QUESTIONS

What does Nebraska’s music education of the future look like?

I envision the future of Nebraska music education to be an extension of current practices. Throughout the state, many schools incorporate a broad range of musical activities at the elementary and middle level, with traditional ensembles at the secondary level. Larger school districts have adopted expanded course offerings to provide supplemental musical experiences for students and I envision some of these possibilities to begin trickling down to smaller programs. While ensembles will likely remain the core components of most high school programs, continuing to explore musical opportunities beyond large group performances will be an important catalyst for artistic growth in our classrooms. Preparing our young educators to incorporate some of these opportunities on a smaller scale is key to provide a rich musical experience for all students.

What specific strengths, skills, and ideas do you possess that will make you a better member of the board of directors?

Having spent my entire teaching career in the state of Nebraska, I have a solid understanding of trends, history, and the culture of programs (of various sizes) throughout the state. I am incredibly organized and seek to gather as much information as possible to understand challenges and create solutions. Listening is a vital catalyst for understanding and I try my best to be available and open to grow as a leader for music education in Nebraska. I understand that we have a variety of needs for different size programs within the state and I will do my best to empathize and support these diverse musical cultures.

What do you feel NMEA leadership needs to do to strengthen music education, the profession, and our organization?

Currently Nebraska faces a shortage of music teachers. It is heartbreaking to envision schools throughout the state that lack a certified music teacher. While transitional certification programs have become more prominent, stemming the tide to some extent, we are still understaffed in many areas, particularly smaller communities in the central and western part of the state. My hope is that NMEA can consistently program sessions at the collegiate portion and general conference to highlight the many benefits of smaller programs, noting challenges within these communities, and tools to support music education. Partnering with Tri-M also affords another opportunity for NMEA to positively impact students that might be considering a career in music education. Our next generation of music educators are in our elementary, middle, and secondary classrooms. I believe that NMEA has a valuable opportunity to build these bridges to the next generation of music education in Nebraska.

Amy Spears

BIO: Amy Spears is Associate Professor of Music at Nebraska Wesleyan University where she teaches courses in world music drumming, rock band, and music education. Here research interests include informal music learning, internationalizing music curricula, and diversifying music education to include marginalized individuals. She holds a Ph.D. in Music Education from Arizona State University. Her previous teaching experience includes secondary school instrumental and general music classes in Alabama and Arizona. Dr. Spears is a regular presenter at national and international conferences including the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) and its various state affiliate conferences, Society for Music Teacher Education (SMTE), and Instrumental Music Teacher Educators’ Colloquium (IMTE). Her research has appeared in peer-reviewed journals including The Journal of Popular Music Education and Visions of Research in Music Education. She also has published chapters in Women's Bands in America (Scarecrow Press) and Marginalized Voices in Music Education (Routledge).

CANDIDATE QUESTIONS

What does Nebraska’s music education of the future look like?

I envision the future of Nebraska’s music education to be a both/and approach, which I believe we are already embracing. What that means is we can have both traditional ensembles that are very important and foundational to every program in Nebraska, and we can continue to expand our music education offerings to further include more varied ensembles and music classes.

In terms of excellent traditional large ensembles, I believe it is important to continue to have exceptional ongoing professional development so that all music educators can further developing their musicianship, leadership, and teaching skills. These aspects include things like effective rehearsal techniques, score study, conducting skills, learning about and choosing quality literature, recruiting and retaining diverse students to grow their programs, and advocating for their programs, to name a few.

I think an important thing that we have already begun to embrace, especially with the onset of Covid, is the importance of technology to our field. I would like to see more ongoing, relevant professional development throughout the state, over the year for all music educators so that we continue to know about and be able to utilize the most recent music technology so that all of our students can have access to music education. Another important aspect of education that we can continue to expand on is use of more varied pedagogical processes for Pre-K-12 music education, including student-centered learning, culturally responsive teaching, project-based learning, and socio-emotional learning. Many of these pedagogies require students “doing” musical activities such as playing instruments, singing, moving, or creating, which I think is developmentally important for a child’s musical education. I would like to provide opportunities for music educators to expand their skills in these areas so they feel more comfortable teaching them, so as to draw in more Nebraska students to be involved in their school music programs.

What specific strengths, skills, and ideas do you possess that will make you a better member of the board of directors?

I have already been on the NMEA Board for the past year, which has given me great insight about the type of work that the Board does. Because there was a vacancy in this position, I was able to step in starting in January, 2021. In this year, I have been involved in the meetings and helped plan the 2021 NMEA conference. It has been an eye-opening and very rewarding experience. If elected, I am eager to continue the work I have already begun in this position.

During the year I have served on the board, I have already been able to implement some of the ideas I have had specifically in order to continually improve the collegiate day. I have increased number of applicants who submit session proposals so that there is a more robust lineup of collegiate sessions. Future ideas include more communication and collaboration with collegiate advisers as well as collegiate presidents. Because of what we have learned of the possibilities of zoom during Covid, I see more possibilities of ongoing intercollegiate communication, networking, and professional development throughout the year, not just at the NBA conference. I plan to continue to collaborate with the collegiate representative to bolster social media activity. I would also like to generate more feedback from collegiate students after the conference to get a more comprehensive understanding of what is working, what is not, and other ideas that collegiate students might have that would make the conference even more effective for them. In addition, I would like to solicit feedback from them to see what kinds of ongoing professional development, networking, or social events throughout the year they might find useful, and in what format that might be.

I am well-connected with NAfME’s Society for Music Teacher Education (SMTE). I regularly attend and present at the bi-annual national conference. Being part of this organization helps me stay connected to and expand my network of music teacher educator colleagues across the country, participate in conversations about the biggest issues facing our profession, and learn about important recent research within the field of music education. I have presented my own research at the conference for most of the conferences the past ten years. Most recently I have been accepted to present a collaborative research study with a colleague in Montana at the 2021 SMTE Conference, which is held in September; the study is titled “Looking on the bright side: Early-career ensemble directors’ experiences during COVID-19.”

On a different note, in group scenarios like the NMEA board meetings, I believe it’s useful to have outspoken members, who have good ideas, yet who are also willing to actively listen and be enthusiastically involved in group conversations. I enjoy this kind of work and have believe I am quite good at it. Additional strengths and skills I possess are my ability to listen to my colleagues and peers to try and understand their perspectives, to incorporate their strengths, and to openly communicate my own ideas. I am often the one in group project scenarios beginning the conversations, asking questions, and making notes. I think it’s important to spend time discussing all possibilities – thinking divergently – listening to everyone’s ideas, asking questions to get lots of possibilities on the table. And secondarily, I find it very important to generate a plan and then execute it. Once a good idea is generated, I am skilled at being an “on the ground, get it done” kind of person, preparing the next steps to make the plan happen.

What do you feel NMEA leadership needs to do to strengthen music education, the profession, and our organization?

In short: community, feedback, and knowledge.

Community is what I think we as a profession want and need, especially now. I would love to see us implement more ongoing professional development throughout the year, and throughout the state. I have realized over the past few years that the western part of our state may tend to not feel as much a part of professional development opportunities as the eastern part of our state. It’s important to recognize this as a real concern, and address it so that everyone in the state feels a part of NMEA and can take full advantage of the professional development and community-building opportunities. To me that means making these opportunities available in towns and districts throughout the state; not just in the eastern part and not just during November. I plan to continue discussing ideas for solving this issue, finding out what teachers in different parts of the state want, and how we can make that happen. I would love to see even more community among all music teachers in NMEA, and that can start happening by doing things locally and on a smaller scale.

One of the strengths I feel NMEA has had in the past several years has been soliciting feedback from music educators across the state. If we are not offering services that constituents want, what is the point? I am excited to have feedback be even more robustly collected, and more widely and transparently utilized to shape plans for future conferences, as well as other potential ongoing offerings.

I also appreciate the leadership’s continued close ties with our national NAfME organization. I believe it is important for our state leadership to have an ear to the ground regarding educational and demographic trends, research, and important conversations that are happening nationally, not just locally. It is imperative that as a state, we are aware of and involved in national and international conversations about issues and politics that involve music, education, and music education. If Nebraska teachers are knowledgeable about current issues in education and music education, they can be more informed and involved practitioners and citizens. I believe it is the NMEA Board’s job to continue to provide that knowledge so we can continue to improve upon and provide excellent professional development to our members.

CONTACT INFORMATION
Email [email protected]

 

Director of Middle Leve/Jr. High Affairs Candidates

Nathan Helzer

BIO: Nate Helzer is an educator at Barr Middle School in Grand Island who just finished his 15th year of teaching. Nate has had the opportunity to teach K-12, 6-12, 9-12, and 6-8 in rural to urban schools. His education includes a Masters of Science: 7-12 Administration (Wayne State, 2019), Masters of Music: Education (University of Nebraska at Lincoln, 2012) and a Bachelor of Arts: K-12 Music Education (University of Nebraska at Kearney, December 2005). 

Nate served on the NCDA board as the Repertoire & Standards Chair for Senior High Music and as Social Media Coordinator. In 2019, he created the Middle-Level General Music Unconference to meet the needs of middle level educators in Nebraska. 

Nate was the recipient of the 2011 NCDA Young Choral Director Award, the 2020 recipient of the Bryan R. Johnson Distinguished Service Award through NMEA, and was selected for the NMEA Young Leadership Academy. 

Nate is married to his wife Danielle, who serves as Mission Impact Director of the YWCA. They keep busy with their two 12-year-old children who continue to aid in Nate’s receding hairline.

CANDIDATE QUESTIONS

What does Nebraska’s music education of the future look like?

I am so excited at the opportunities the future holds for music education. We have an opportunity to continue to improve music education opportunities in the state of Nebraska by looking at what opportunities will best engage our students and make them lifelong creators and consumers of music. We must understand that not all students are on the performance track of music education, and we can create new and exciting opportunities for those students. Some music departments are setting the future of music education by providing courses such as music production, music composition, music & film, etc. Music education in the future includes these opportunities for students as well.

How do we do this? This will only happen through open lines of communication. Collaboration with music professionals of all kinds will help to open up these new experiences. As a candidate for the Middle Level/Jr. High affairs, I plan to grow opportunities and access to a curriculum that will help to provide meaningful experiences for all middle-level music programs in the state.

What specific strengths, skills, and ideas do you possess that will make you a better member of the board of directors?

I am a solutions-focused individual who finds ways to improve systems when possible. As a board member of NCDA back in 2011, I saw an opportunity to leverage social media and created the NCDA Discussion Board, which still provides a space for educators to collaborate. In 2019, I addressed a lack of curricular guidance and support of middle-level general music education by creating the Middle-Level General Music Unconference.

Having had the opportunity to teach in various school settings and with a variety of grade levels, I come to this position with perspective. I have the perspective of what a high school level educator expects of the students in terms of literacy and exposure. I have had the opportunity to “walk a mile” as an elementary teacher for two years. Although this was a small glimpse of elementary life, it helps me to empathize and understand the K-5 perspective. I also have had the opportunity to teach in various school district sizes, ranging from the largest school district in Nebraska to a Class C school. I have taught in Eastern, Central, and Western Nebraska as well. This variety of exposure and understanding is important as we work to build up the opportunities provided in the middle-level music education classrooms around Nebraska.

What do you feel NMEA leadership needs to do to strengthen music education, the profession, and our organization?

As a professional organization, it is imperative that we listen to our members and act accordingly. In order for this to happen, we must provide our members with opportunities to share. One thing that we have learned over the past two school years is that communication is at our fingertips. Step one to strengthen music education is to get feedback from as many different perspectives as possible. This sounds easy, but it is imperative we reach all corners of our state to ensure that all students in Nebraska are being advocated for. Once that information is given, then NMEA can act. We can act in a variety of ways. We can act by providing additional professional development. We can act by advocating for policy change that ensures a sequential music education opportunity for all students.

Responsive action is integral to the vibrant success of any professional organization. As a member of many committees, I was constantly asking leadership if the decisions we made were aligned with the mission. The mission of an organization should be the Northstar to all conversations and decisions. In order to continue to strengthen music education & this organization, I would ensure that the mission of NMEA is a constant part of conversation & decision making. I begin that dedication by making sure our mission is presented:

The Nebraska Music Education Association is committed to building a robust statewide community of qualified music educators and allies by cultivating genuine relationships, advancing music education, and advocating for the profession.

Gail Carpenter-Johnson

BIO: Gail R. Carpenter-Johnson just completed her 25th year of teaching instrumental music.  The majority of her teaching career has been with Westside Community Schools where she serves as a foundational educator focusing on 5th and 6th grade Band and Strings.  In addition, she serves as the master scheduler for the elementary instrumental music department for the district.  Previous teaching positions include 6-12 Band at Conestoga and 5-8 Band and Strings for Omaha Public Schools.  Mrs. Carpenter-Johnson is a member of numerous professional organizations including NMEA and the Nebraska State Bandmasters Association (NSBA).  As an active adjudicator and clinician throughout the state she has worked with students at all grade levels.  She is an active freelance performer, private flute teacher, guest clinician, speaker and presenter across the state.  She is a PDK Showcase Teacher (2012), a recipient of the NSBA Distinguished Service Award (2005) and the NSBA Jack R. Snyder Young Band Director Award (2001).  In 2016, she was awarded the NSBA Duane E. Johnson Distinguished Service Award for her decade long work as coordinator of the NSBA Young Directors Boot Camp.  In 2018, she was inducted into the Alpha Theta chapter of Phi Beta Mu, the International School Bandmaster Fraternity.

CANDIDATE QUESTIONS

What does Nebraska’s music education of the future look like?

Teaching through this pandemic gave us all a tremendous gift by forcing us all into a technological existence.  While I have never been a fan of technology inclusion just for the sake of inclusion, the pandemic provided a pathway to engage in meaningful technology usage.  We learned new ways to engage students, provide instruction and were even able to provide new and unique opportunities through live streaming technologies.  But the pandemic also highlighted that that is simply not enough to sustain our programs, our students and ourselves as musicians.  The pandemic showed us all how much we crave and need human interaction, and that music is at its very core an innate human connector.  We learned that our students need to have performances and music making opportunities in order to be truly motivated and that experiencing music in a live setting really matters to our students and our constituents.  We learned that nothing has a greater impact on our students’ mental health than the social interaction they get with each other through our ensemble settings.  Teaching through a pandemic has shown us that we can marry an ancient artform with current technologies, providing our students engaging, growth-oriented performance opportunities.  Through technology, we can connect our students with master players and educators literally anywhere.  We can live stream in adjudicators, clinicians, masterclasses and private instructors for our students giving them opportunities to learn and grow as musicians.  Music education of the future will balance live performance and musical interaction, with process-oriented teaching and live-streaming technology, to create amazing musical opportunities for students.  

What specific strengths, skills, and ideas do you possess that will make you a better member of the board of directors?

I strive to share my passion for music education as a servant leader focused on the growth of all students and building relationships with colleagues. As we all deal with the effects of the pandemic personally and on our programs, it is vital that we have board members with real-life experiences advocating for music education and educators.  Our members will need support, guidance, and state-wide advocacy efforts to help each individual choir, band and string program rebound and regain vitality.  As a foundational expert in charge of recruiting, I sell music for a living and have learned how to successfully market music education to stakeholders.  I have had multiple experiences successfully defending staff members and our program from budget cuts, advocating for better scheduling for our program, developing cross level curriculum and pacing guides to strengthen our program, and serving on advocacy committees with community leaders to ensure our program continues to move forward.  I also have extensive experience supporting colleagues as they enter our amazing profession.  The majority of my teaching experience has focused on the foundational level of both beginning band and strings.  The art of starting students appropriately on musical instruments is often misrepresented and underserved, but it is the heart of every successful music program.  Having a board member with extensive experience and firsthand knowledge of what music programs need at the foundational level will be of benefit to all our membership.  I believe my culmination of experiences uniquely qualify me to serve NMEA and my colleagues across the state as we all develop our pandemic response and recovery plans. 

What do you feel NMEA leadership needs to do to strengthen music education, the profession, and our organization?

Advocacy has always been at the top of the list for priorities for this organization, but our immediate advocacy has to be in response to the Covid pandemic.  The aerosol study produced through the music education coalition provided valuable guidance which allowed us to continue making music during the pandemic, but we now need a plan to help us return to best practice music making in all subject areas.  We need guidelines and recommendations we can take to school administration to help us all move forward safely and successfully.  NMEA leadership also needs to work to ensure we are promoting music education as a viable experience for all students regardless of race, gender, religion or socio-economic status.  Offering our membership learning opportunities that promote the social and emotional health of students and developing inclusion through our music ensembles and programming choices are ways we can strengthen our relationships and impact on the greater community we serve.  NMEA also needs to encourage and support the physical and mental well-being of our membership to help us all combat career fatigue and burnout.  We can do this by offering experiences that provide educational and connectivity opportunities to our membership, seeking to understand what causes stress in our profession and providing proactive ways to address that stress.  Most importantly, we need to continue to make connections and develop relationships with colleagues.  In doing so, we increase the longevity and success of those in our profession, strengthening music education as a whole.