The Changing Face of the WVMEA Conference

NOTES DA CAPO - By John Puffenbarger
April/May, 1995

Southern Division President James MeRaney attended this year's WVMEA Conference and he stated that while West Virginia is a small state, we have excelled in many areas of music education. He felt that our success was due in part to our willingness to adjust to change. Several WVMEA affiliates have recently changed their procedures so as to run their programs more efficiently and effectively.

Gary Marvel, Bandmasters Association president, met with members of the bandmasters executive board this past summer to discuss changes for bringing their constitution up to date. The bandmasters acted upon these changes at the recent WVMEA Conference.

In 1963 WVMEA President Saul Fisher convinced the various state music organizations to affiliate with the WVMEA. During that year's Conference he went from group to group explaining the advantages of consolidation. Several band directors thought their organization would lose its identity if it joined with the WVMEA. But at the WVMEA general business meeting Ronald Wood of Fairmont moved that all organizations affiliate with the WVMEA, and the motion passed easily.

Also in 1963 John Barnes of Clendenin and others pushed for the formation of the WVMEA All-State Band. It was organized and has performed in the All-State Festival Concert since then.

Some groups had been invited to perform at past Conferences as guests, but in 1966 the Mannington High School Band directed by William Long became the first honor group when they performed at the Conference in Wilson Lodge, Oglebay Park. Now there is a formalized procedure for selecting several honor groups.

The Bandmasters Association had sponsored some solo and ensemble festivals for several years, but in 1967 the WVMEA expanded these to become state-wide. The new festivals included vocal and strings as well as wind and percussion. In 1968 they were held in seven regions, and from these regions ten honor finalists were selected to perform at the state WVMEA Solo and Ensemble Recital that year. This tradition continues today with both a senior high and a junior high recital.

Since the 1960s the WVMEA Conference program has expanded to include stage band finalists, show choirs, the All-State Children's Chorus, general music sessions, and multi-cultural events. Other changes in the Conference facilitated transportation concerns. The All-State Festival Concert was moved from evening to afternoon so that students, teachers, and parents would not have to return home late at night. The WVMEA Executive Board, which formerly met on the Wednesday evening before the Conference, now meets on Thursday morning.

In order to emphasize community music making and to encourage teachers to continue performing, this year's Conference featured professional performers from the Glenville-Parkersburg area.

The newest group to join the WVMEA Conference is the Retired Members led by Elizabeth Henderson of Parkersburg. The retired members met for the first time this year at a luncheon.

These on-going changes demonstrate that the WVMEA continues to select a Conference program adapted to the changing needs of West Virginia music teachers.