Our first guest post comes from Narciso Solero, VMTA President-Elect and organizer of this year’s Virginia Music Teachers Association Fall 2018 Conference and Competitions, held at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA from October 25-27. Thank you Narciso!

Post-VMTA Conference thoughts from your VMTA President-elect

I have a confession to make. I have attended many VMTA state conferences since moving to Northern Virginia 21 years ago. I have been twice to Richmond, once to Winchester, attended in 2006 and 2017 at George Mason University in Fairfax, and now to Lynchburg, and I have been as well to a few other places I am forgetting.

But until this year, I had always been one of those VMTA members who was a “picker and a chooser” – I attended some of the competitions, I was featured as part of a panel discussion in 2006, I attended a masterclass here and there, and catch a workshop on occasion, as though the conference were a dinner buffet or dim sum lunch and thus I would look over the buffet and pick a few things from the available offerings.

As President-elect, my main duty now is to organize and run the state conference – from start to finish, and as such, I could NOT treat this conference as a smorgasbord and select specific things I wanted. For me, this now was a multi-course dinner that was my responsibility and one of which I also had to partake. Of course here, our courses were the competitions, the business meetings, the performance and lecture by our featured conference artist (the wonderful pianist Paul Barnes), the lectures by our featured speaker (MTNA’s own vice-president, the incomparable Peter Mack), and the gala event – the orchestra concert featuring our concerto competition winners. I attended everything this time – with the exception of a few specialized business meetings for specific VMTA committees. Before I went to the conference, I wondered how I would feel about it all: being on-call constantly if there would be fires to put out (happily, there were few mishaps!) and being on my feet from early morning to late at night sounded a bit daunting, and thus I fully expected I would finish the conference only to find myself ridiculously happy it was finally OVER after months of work and then three days of the Big Event. After all, there are thousands of moving parts and what seemed like millions of tasks on my conference to-do list and when the conference began, I fully expected I would be exhausted and burned out at its conclusion. I envied our members who were able to simply sign up and show up. I figured I would be too busy and tired to enjoy it much at all. Happily, that was not the case.

I discovered I loved every minute of it. And I came to a startling realization that with each facet of the conference – the meetings, the conference sessions, and the performances – I was experiencing many things in several different roles: as a business owner (we all are this as independent teachers!), as a teacher, as a student, and as a concert-goer.

I discovered that I found the business meetings fascinating because we discussed issues to tackle, goals to set and means to achieve those goals, and ways to make VMTA stand out from other state affiliates. As independent teachers, we are business owners: we have to set goals and make plans for our students and ourselves each year and realize those goals and put those plans into action if we intend to thrive.  I attended every conference session and discovered, unsurprisingly, that VMTA is brimming with talented teacher/presenters: we had seven different conference sessions presented by our own members covering a range of topics – pedagogy, special needs students, and repertoire and literature sessions. As a teacher, I found myself having many of my own ideas reaffirmed, restated, and reinforced by what our VMTA colleagues presented to us and at the same time found myself a student, eagerly taking notes even about literature and teaching ideas I already thought I knew quite a bit about. I attended our competition winners recital and was proud of the level of accomplishment our students exhibit in Virginia and especially proud as an NVMTA member to see so many of our NVMTA students represented on the winners’ concert. I attended recitals and concerts and happily gave up the task of running the conference and let our guest artist, our student winners, and other performers take over the show as it were and give me the luxury of sitting back and simply being a lover of great music. Over three days, I experienced the conference as organizational leader, teacher, student, and adoring audience member. I have never had the experience of so many role changes in so short a time; my mind and energy were revitalized each time I took off one hat and put on another and when it was all over, I felt none of the exhaustion or burn-out I feared would take over. I was ready to do it again – -right away!

You all as teachers can have that same experience, if you have not attended before (and I want NVMTA to be really well- represented next year and in many years to come!). You will be energized and revitalized as teachers and as students of great music. Attend from start to finish – don’t be a “picker and chooser” as I was for so many years. Enjoy it from start to finish! You will not regret it. You will be glad you did!

We have already made significant progress in setting 2019 conference in motion. As one who experienced the conference from start to finish – from day one of planning it to the post-mortem analysis sifting through the evaluations submitted by our attending members – I would enthusiastically encourage you to join us next year at the conference! If you have never attended one, you really are missing out on something wonderful. If you have attended in the past but have not attended recently, we are in the process already of lining up some pretty wonderful performances and programs to grab your attention, pique your interest, and get you to register for 2019. And if you are a faithful attendee and know you will be back next year – THANK YOU, and welcome back, old friend.

Best wishes for a great year –

Narciso Solero
President-elect, Virginia Music Teachers Association



Photos via Virginia Music Teachers Association Facebook page.

VMTA is the state affiliate of the Music Teachers National Association. To learn more about joining MTNA, click here.

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