Texas Music Educator’s Convention
Reflections by Kortnee With-a-k
The music swells. He leans forward. His face grimaces. Eyebrows crease. His arms twist in a strangely graceful arc. His torso heaves with an elegant lurch. He perches on one toe. He dances – he jumps – he bends.
White hair tosses across his face like a wild pony. A gentle sway. He leans backward defying gravity for an endless moment. Eyes disappear inside his skull as he reveals his soul. He smiles and he slowly melts as he breathes in the final bars. Still holding the music inside his spirit, he rests his arms. His fluid body becomes still. The waterfall that is HIM- stops. Silence falls. Not a breath. No movement. They wait. Motionless. Bows perched- – – reeds still damp- – – timpani still vibrating- – –
And the man who becomes the music answers their silent question:
THAT WAS PRETTY GOOD. LET’S GO BACK TO MEASURE 168 AND TRY IT AGAIN. OBOES I NEED TO HEAR YOU! TRUMPETS WATCH THAT RUN AND SECOND VIOLINS REMEMBER TO STAY LIGHT ON THE PIZZICATO. HERE WE GO….
This is a place where viola players dance with conductors while the triangle player keeps time. This is a space where musical visions become poetry.
This is time where children’s dreams come true and stars align. THIS is state orchestra rehearsal at the Texas Music Educator’s Convention… aka “TMEA”. Anyone who has ever learned to play chopsticks or whistled Dixie in the state of Texas has heard of this amazing convention that takes place annually in San Antonio along the banks of the beautiful downtown Riverwalk. Attended by over 40,000 students, parents, teachers, conductors, vendors, and directors, TMEA is hailed as the largest music educator’s convention in the country… and probably the world. It is a music mecca and it is a sight to behold.
TMEA began over 90 years ago and has grown by leaps and bounds. TMEA Convention is THE heart of fine arts education in the great state of Texas and it is a magnet for educators everywhere. Ask any music teacher in any corner of the state if they plan to attend next year and you might be surprised at the strength of their resounding YES. The success of this event can probably be credited to vision and leadership and just plain good planning… and while those points are obvious, anyone walking around inside Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center for these five days will tell you that it’s something more. There is a charmed energy reverberating from the stage of the Lila Cockrell theatre. It dances down the halls and way up into Room C far away on the third floor. The energy explodes beyond the walls and floats all the way over to the Menger Hotel and out to Alamo Plaza wrapping hallowed spirits in its enchanted celebration of the arts. An invisible Pied Piper wraps all of downtown in wonderment that may only be matched by the magic of Christmas. It is a fireworks celebration of the arts- it awes, it wows, it amazes.
Maybe it’s all the conductor’s wands spinning their magical musical spells, or perhaps it’s the eager first chair oboe player from Grainger, or possibly it’s the group of fourth-graders impatient for their Orff ensemble, or maybe it’s the retiring choir director from Weslaco. One cannot pinpoint a source of the seemingly infinite energy and enthusiasm overflowing from TMEA but it is definitely contagious. It is fed by the energy of youth, flamed by the passion of countless music educators, and fueled by the wisdom of pure musical genius. Simply put, there is more talent walking around downtown San Antonio during this convention than most cities have in their little finger in a whole year!
TMEA is a musical menagerie complete with harps, digiridoos, and maracas. Not only can teachers learn the latest breathing techniques for freshman trombone players, they can play the recorder with music publishing legend, Ed Sueta and his son! Looking through the catalog of events, an arts lover will be astounded by the opportunities and options at this convention. A first-time convention-goer might wish they could join a professionally guided Segway tour to navigate the swirling event: “The why of what we do”, “The sounds of teen spirit”, “Double Dream Hands”, countless clinics, all-state concerts, woodwind workshops, endless exhibits, multifarious musical displays, vivacious vendors, and scholarly showcases. The black-and-white world of every day life melts away under a TMEA rainbow of possibilities. The whirlwind journey through this event leaves everyone clicking their heels for the rest of they year, “There’s no place like TMEA. There is NO place like TMEA. There IS no place like TMEA.”
The Texas Music Educator’s Association will tell you that their goal is to “promote excellence in music education.” They provide professional development opportunities and support the future of music education. They offer scholarships and sponsor a high school organization that promotes music careers. But what they don’t say- or perhaps what they haven’t figured out yet how to put into words- is what really happens in San Antonio Texas each year in February. Indeed, musical expression is sometimes easier than words.
But educators speak volumes. The pathways for learning at TMEA are endless, but strangely enough, that is NOT what is most fascinating about this incredible event. It is the individuals who participate in the journey who breathe life into the entire experience. Unlike what we see on the evening news, this event is teeming with seekers. It is a mind-boggling swirl of folks rushing to do good things, of people bubbling with intelligence, of humankind thriving in goodness and bounding with enthusiasm; positive energy abounds. And none of this is happening by accident. These are Texas Music Educators. They are motivated. They are filled with direction and purpose. They are tireless, dynamic, fearless, talented, and focused. They are driven. They are here to commune with others. They are seeking the power of networking and the genius of collaboration. It is the nectar of their craft and it is their passion. They seek it willingly and they share it purposefully and skillfully.
And…. They will tell you about it themselves. Just ask.