Conference Growth Presents Challenge

"Notes da Capo" by John L. Puffenbarger

November 2001

One of the many functions school administrators perform during summer months is developing a workable schedule of classes, sometimes a difficult task. There are many more classes to schedule today than in the past. Itinerant music teachers know from experience that each year they must confer with their school principals to include music in the school schedule. They must juggle classes not only in a single school, but in each school in which they teach. A slight change in one school's schedule will cause havoc with their schedules in every other school. Scheduling becomes more difficult as more subjects and requirements are added to the curriculum.

Scheduling events at the WVMEA conference each year is also a formidable task for conference chairs. WVMEA has many more affiliates than in past years, and each affiliate wants a time slot on the conference program. There are a limited number of time slots and rooms available during these three-day conferences. While WVMEA conferences used to be held entirely within hotels (with the exception of the Saturday all-state concerts), today's conferences require several locations to handle all the events.

In February 1960, the WVMEA conference was held over a four-day period at the School of Music at West Virginia University. The program began with the WVMEA Executive Board annual dinner, followed by a general music concert for the local audience and WVMEA members.

The 1960 conference chair had only twenty-one events to schedule. These included a college orchestra rehearsal; college student, band, and choral, luncheons; string; choral, and band clinics (A, M, AAA); a music education clinic; the conference banquet; a college orchestra and WVU American Arts Trio concert; and a music industry, MENC student chapter, and music education workshop. The conference chair did not have to schedule the All-State Orchestra or Choir, and there was no All-State Band.

By the mid-1960s, the conference had been reduced to three days. The only event scheduled on Wednesday was an executive board dinner meeting. By 1970 the conference program had grown considerably, with thirty-two events scheduled. Several meetings were held on Thursday morning, with the official opening of the conference at 1:00pm. The solo and ensemble honor finalists performed on Thursday afternoon. No meetings were held during concert times. The all-state concerts were held at 7:30pm on Saturday.

In the 1980s, more events were added to the conference program. Each affiliate wanted to schedule clinics which were of interest to its members. Elementary general music, show choir, computers, Orff techniques, Kodaly workshops, research sessions, and instrumental clinics were features of the growing program. Some affiliate organizations held business meetings. The WVMEA conference banquet (later dropped from the program) was held on Friday evening. All-state concerts were moved to 3:00pm on Saturday to give teachers, parents, and students more time to return home. Of course, this shortened the amount of time available for conference chairs to use and made it necessary to run concurrent sessions.

More and more events were added in the years that followed. The Children's Choir was added in 1989, and logistics became even more of a problem for conference chairs since few staging areas were available for performing groups. Space had to be arranged for the many exhibitors who displayed their products. Rehearsal rooms for all-state groups were another priority.

About sixty-five events were scheduled for the 2000 WVMEA Conference, roughly triple the number of the 1960 conference. We owe a debt of gratitude to WVMEA members who have served as conference chairs and the dozens of others who have served on committees to plan and run our conferences throughout WVMEA history.