Promoting General Music in Elementary Schools

NOTES DA CAPO – By John L. Puffenbarger

Fall 2007


In October 1958, members of the WVMEA Executive Board expressed the opinion that programs at WVMEA meetings should in­clude help and suggestions for elementary music teachers. The board passed a motion to organize an elementary music division dur­ing the WVMEA convention to be held later that month.


During the WVMEA convention, held on October 30, 1958, elementary music teachers were invited to meet at Charleston High School following a music workshop. Richard Wellock was in charge of this meeting that focused on the possibility of forming an or­ganization. However, the elementary division did not develop at this time, and no record of further meetings exists.


In September 1963, the WVMEA Executive Board passed a motion to organize general music teachers from Kindergarten through 12th grade in conjunction with the County Directors of Music Association. Robert Wright, president of the County Directors, welcomed this opportunity for all general music personnel to participate in the same organization, teachers as well as supervisors.


The purpose of the Elementary Division was to try to reach classroom teachers through WVMEA by increasing emphasis on work­shops and clinics to be held at regional and state conferences. WVMEA members who were classroom teachers could attend the WVMEA conference each spring as guests or upon payment of the conference registration fee only. It was suggested that pertinent Notes A Tempo articles could be reprinted in the West Virginia School Journal.


The Elementary-General Division (E/G) ofWVMEA in the 1960s and 1970s was active in the classroom and sponsored clinics at WVMEA conferences. At the 1978 conference, the WVMEA Executive Board designated Saturday as Elementary-General Day and held workshops on that day for the Division. The additional emphasis was a success, and plans were made to continue the workshops. Gail E. Looney, E/G president, recommended expanding the program for the next conference.


In April 1986, E/G president Priscilla Wonkka attended the national conference at Anaheim, California. Susan Kenny, national presi­dent of the Society of General Music (SGM) told her that there was some confusion in West Virginia concerning the roles of E/G and SGM. The E/G Division had been operating for several years prior to the formation of SGM. However, since SGM was designed to be a national organization for all general music teachers, several states combined the two organizations into the Society for General Music. This proposal was discussed at the 1987 meeting of the WVMEA Executive Board, and the name "Society for General Music" was adopted.


For several years, general music teachers had discussed the possibility of organizing a General Music All-State Chorus. In 1986, a resolution was written to be presented at a future WVMEA Executive Board meeting. The proposal was adopted at the June 4, 1988 Board meeting. (See the Winter 2004 "Notes da Capo" article titled "WVMEA Fortunate to Hear Children's Voices" on the WVMEA Web site for more information.)


In 1990, SGM began building a video library for use by music teachers throughout the state. The first installments were Helen Kemp's Guiding Young Singers and Developing the Young Singer. (Kemp was the director of the 1990 All-State Children's Chorus.) Addi­tional videos have been added over the years and are widely used. A current list of videos is available from Patty Moffett Austin.


SGM held a mini-conference at Johnson Elementary School in Bridgeport on April 27, 1996, which was funded through a grant from WVMEA. Dr. Dawn Baker of Ohio State University led the workshop titled "Movement in the Typical Classroom Setting." Following this successful workshop, SGM held workshops each spring. Since 2000, these workshops have been held in the fall.


The first SGM Teacher of the Year award was presented to Felicia Berger-Westfall at the 2003 WVMEA conference in Huntington. The award was presented to Abbie Woods in 2004, Carol Thorp in 2005, Heidi Dunkle in 2006, and Kathleen Fox in 2007.


Officers for 2007-09 are: Martina Norman, president; Lisa Reese, vice president; and Cathy Walker, secretary/treasurer. The Society for General Music continues to encourage the improvement of the quality of teaching in general music at all levels. SGM promotes active participation by general music teachers and students in activities and workshops that improve the teaching and learning of music.