Middle Tennessee State University attracted popular music educators from throughout the nation to the Blue Raider campus this week for the 2018 Association for Popular Music Education Conference.
The College of Media and Entertainment, in conjunction with the School of Music and several other campus partners, hosted the June 24-27 event. It drew 175 secondary and post-secondary music educators from across the country to enjoy four days of intensive learning, demonstrations and networking.
Odie Blackmon, coordinator of MTSU’s Commercial Songwriting Program in the Department of Recording Industry, oversaw this year’s conference and described hosting it as a “campus effort,” where colleges pitched in with help from hosting tours and moderating panels to printing signs and providing coffee.
Blackmon said holding conferences focusing on popular music is important because “traditionally, a lot of music schools and recording schools have jazz and classical programs. … Because this is a newer field in higher education, there’s not as many resources.”
Topics ranged from bridging classical and pop in music theory courses to using technology in composing and producing music to incorporating rap, Broadway, rockabilly, hip-hop, heavy metal and world music into classes for all ages.
“Roughly 25 percent of (the conference) attendees are from high schools,” said Blackmon, who also is a producer, publisher, songwriter and Grammy nominee. He added that the APME conference was “a great opportunity to recruit” potential students and faculty for MTSU as well as share a host of talented workshop presenters with attendees.
Each day included an array of education sessions with titles like “The Ch33rios: Songwriting with Middle School Modern Bands,” “Hip-Hop Music in Elementary School? Exploring DJ Culture and the Artwork of Jean-Michel Basquiat” and “Hammer of the Gods: Capturing the Style of Led Zeppelin in Performance and Life.”
Sessions enlightened presenters as well as the attendees.
“I’ve learned that a lot of other people are doing songwriting, and I need to connect with more of them,” said Robin Giebelhausen, an assistant professor in music education at the University of New Mexico who also was one of the conference presenters.
In her session, “Grooving and Producing: Popular Music Education,” Giebelhausen discussed how she’s helped her students in their musical journeys, noting that her students have been able to help her as well. The professor, whose courses include showing students how to put an entire concert together, shared how her students helped her start a band.
“I started with just me playing solo while the students played in their groups,” she said. “Then, over time, I’ve created my own band, which is made up of former students who’ve come back and help every year with the show.”
Rick Palese, an assistant music instructor at the University of Texas, Austin, led another interactive session, “Whom Do You Want on Your Gig? Visions of an Accomplished Popular Musician.” He discussed the importance of having good chemistry with your fellow performers.
“The more I talk, the less you learn,” Palese told attendees, who then paired up to talk about the kinds of musical partnerships they’d want.
The conference wrapped up in the State Farm Lecture Hall inside MTSU’s Business and Aerospace Building. Along with the College of Media Entertainment and School of Music, MTSU campus partners for the event included the Department of Theatre and Dance, Center for Popular Music, Office of the University Provost, Tucker Theatre and the MTSU Experiential Learning Program.
APME was created “to advocate for popular music education and its advancement as a discipline. It provides educational opportunities for teachers and students, honors the rich history of popular music, and develops innovative ways to create, perform, and teach it,” according to its website.
APME President Gareth Dylan Smith noted in the conference program:
“Music and music education are always deeply political, whether we experience them as such or not. Musicking can be democratic, imperialistic, colonial, community-focused, anarchistic, punk, conservative, liberal, deleterious, or uplifting (and often several of these at the same time). Musicians can change the world.”
For more information on the Association for Popular Music Education, visit www.popularmusiceducation.org.
— Kewana McCallum, student intern (firstname.lastname@example.org)