WVMEA Changes With The Times

"Notes da Capo" by John L. Puffenbarger

February 2002

An old European monastery is perched high on a 500 foot cliff. Visitors ride up in a big basket, pulled to the top with a ragged old rope. One day, about halfway up, a passenger nervously asked, "How often do you change the rope?" The monk in charge replied, "Whenever the old one breaks."

There have been many changes in the activities of WVMEA and its affiliate organizations. Some changes have been made to improve programs, while others were made when programs simply outlived their usefulness. As noted in the November 2001 issue of Notes A Tempo, conference chairpersons have had to adjust conference programs to accommodate needs of the association.

For a period of time, the All-State High School Chorus, Band, and Orchestra performed a single concert on Saturday night during the WVMEA conference. Since the concert was usually in a field house, the three performing groups could be accommodated on the floor without having to rearrange chairs between performances. The concert now is held in an auditorium on Saturday afternoon as the culminating event of WVMEA conferences. While the auditorium setting is superior to the field house, the stage must be set up for each group.

The West Virginia Bandmasters Association used to meet at Gorby's Music House on a Sunday afternoon to conduct business and review festival music. In the 1960s, the meeting was expanded to DNO days, convening on a Friday evening and Saturday in December at various locations in the state. Later, the date was changed to June or July, which allowed band directors more time to order festival music. The summer session was later eliminated when it was no longer necessary to select festival music during the meeting.

During the 1960s, the West Virginia Bandmasters Association began to hold its annual business meeting during the WVMEA spring conference. The meeting included a luncheon and instrumental entertainment and lasted two hours or more. Because of an expanded conference program, the meetings now are much shorter.

Many years ago, one state band festival was held in Huntington. Bands earning a "superior" rating at region festivals were invited to attend this festival. In 1957, four two-day festivals were held in different areas of the state. Many band directors had problems with the distances their bands had to travel and the necessity to house band students overnight. Now, ten one-day festivals are held throughout the year.

In 1978, the West Virginia Vocal Association added show choirs to their activities. The Bandmasters Association began to sponsor regional and state stage band festivals after Gorby's Music and Fred Ross' Bandland ran them for several years. The Orchestra Association organized a state orchestra festival, held annually during the Strawberry Festival in Buckhannon. At one time, only two regional solo and ensemble festivals were held in the state. Five students from each were selected to perform at the WVMEA conference. Piano students once performed as part of the state solo and ensemble festivals. The WVMEA Executive Board added an all-state ensemble to the conference program when it approved a proposal from the Society of General Music to form the WVMEA Children's Chorus.

The number of WVMEA affiliates has grown in recent years with the addition of the positions of Research and Grants Chair, Historian, Music In Our Schools Month Chair, Retired Membership Chair, Technology Chair, Coalition Chair, Tri-M Chair, and Public Relations Chair. However, one position was lost this past year when the County Music Directors Association was disbanded for lack of consistent membership.

The WVMEA Executive Board began a project of recognizing people for their contributions to music education. In 1985, WVMEA began to recognize the county superintendents who supported the arts in general and music in particular with the Superintendent of the Year award. In 1986, the Presidential Award was initiated to allow WVMEA presidents to recognize WVMEA members who promoted music education in the state. In 1994, the WVMEA Hall of Fame was established to recognize selected WVMEA members who developed outstanding school music programs.

It is not possible in this article to mention all the changes to improve the functions of WVMEA and its affiliates. Rest assured that music teachers in our state will continue to improve music education for their students whenever the need arises.