Gail Berenson, MTNA Past President
When, at the encouragement of my department chair, I joined MTNA during my first year as a very young college faculty member, I had no idea how beneficial and life changing this association would ultimately become. I immediately became involved at the local level, attending meetings and state conferences. After a couple of years, several of my colleagues and I decided we would attend an MTNA national conference, which happened to be in Miami Beach, Florida, an enticing location. Thus, my “addiction” to national conferences began. Whether local, state or national, attending MTNA meetings has enabled me to expand my musical and pedagogical skills, hearing the most current pedagogical information from icons in the field. My students always knew when I had just returned from a conference as I immediately put these new ideas into practice. Without question, I know that I would not be the same musician or teacher today were it not for all that I learned at these conferences and meetings.
Through MTNA, I have gotten to know literally hundreds of wonderful people, many of whom have become true and lifelong friends. Now, every time I attend an MTNA-related gathering, it feels like a giant family reunion, including the special joy of reuniting with former students who are now making their mark in the world. I always wish I had more days and more meal opportunities to get together with everyone! When I moved from Illinois to Ohio, and more recently from Ohio to Florida, I was warmly welcomed by my wonderful MTNA colleagues. My MTNA family has expanded with each move. I’ve always told my collegiate students that wherever they move, there will always be MTNA members ready to welcome them in their new home.
Finally, MTNA provided me the opportunity to not only grow as a musician and a pedagogue, but also as a leader and a person. Although early on I was asked to take a position at the local level, I never imagined that I might hold the position of Ohio MTA president and ultimately MTNA president, thus developing a new set of skills. I owe special thanks for the support of my fellow officers and MTNA’s exceptional executive director and CEO.
Although now retired, I intend to remain active, and the best way I can do that is to remain involved in MTNA and now Florida State MTA. This is an association I have joined for LIFE!
As a fellow MTNA music educator, my desire is to use this opportunity to call student and active members to action by sharing six action item ideas for more engaging experiences within our network of young professionals and experts.
Finding time for “extracurricular” projects can be challenging when you are juggling teaching, practicing, jobs, school, family and/or life in general. The word extracurricular is placed in quotations due to the negative connotations that suggest you are doing something outside of the norm. But what is the norm? As 21st century musicians, we have the ability to define our own norm because what we choose to devote time and energy on fulfills us in different ways. Being a member of MTNA as a college student created opportunities for me to challenge and define my norm as an educator, researcher, leader and entrepreneur. Through the experiences and connections I have cultivated since my first National Conference, I became more motivated to explore the possibilities in all aspects of my developing career.
I attended the 2015 National Conference with a fellow doctoral student at the encouragement of Martha Hilley, who is now MTNA president-elect. Our experience at the conference provided us with the impetus to make the UT Austin Collegiate Chapter active again. We gathered our colleagues together and created a working space for our ideas beyond our academic and performance responsibilities. We collaborated on proposal submissions to the 2016 Collegiate Chapters Piano Pedagogy Symposium as well as the National Conference. Our joint effort on the project led to presentation opportunities at both conferences! The realization that my ideas could flourish through partnerships and my experiences could benefit other educators came from efforts to be involved with MTNA locally through my collegiate chapter and nationally through the MTNA Collegiate Chapters Piano Pedagogy Symposium.
MTNA connects us to empower one another. You are an invaluable asset to our field because you have the ability to contribute to the conversation, to instigate collaborations and to support fellow professionals of all ages in becoming more than we can be as an individual. Here are ways you can explore your potential this year:
- Call a colleague to discuss collaboration ideas
- Attend a conference or webinar
- Volunteer to mentor a young professional
- Submit a conference proposal
- Offer to present a workshop for your chapter
And my favorite one, even though it requires reminding on occasion, is to schedule time to brainstorm possibilities. We each have a lot to offer as musicians and educators since our strengths differ. What will you do to share your passion and expertise with others?