Arizona Music Educators Association

April Newsletter


This year's High School All State Music Festival will be held at Northern Arizona University on April 21 - 23. Based on your needs and requests from the Arizona Assembly, we have developed new professional development opportunities at high school all-state. This year will feature director's clinics given by NAU faculty on preparing students for collegiate auditions as well as other topics to be announced. You will not want to miss these outstanding opportunities.

Please note there has been a small change to the meetings scheduled for Saturday. The AMEA Meeting will begin in Cline Library at 8:15am as originally scheduled. The ABODA and ACE meetings will immediately follow at 9:00am (ABODA in School of Music Room 217 and ACE in School of Music Room 147)


All-State Concert Ticketing Information:

Complimentary tickets will be available online, for free, through CTO's "Print@Home" option. If this option is utilized there is no need to go to Will Call. Remaining complimentary tickets will be available on April 23, at the Ardrey CTO office. It is recommended to reserve tickets ahead of time, as there will be no guarantee of day-of tickets being available.

All-State Concert Parking Information:

The concert will be held in Ardrey Auditorium (Building 37A). Suggested parking for the concert is lot P13. Click below for a map of campus:

NAU Parking Map


We are still in the process of finalizing all dates for next year, but included below are a few of next year's dates for your planning. All other dates will be finalized after our next meeting on May 7.

  • High School Regional Auditions Jan. 27 – 28
  • AMEA Conference Feb. 3 - 4
  • High School Honor Regional Festivals Feb. 17 – 18
  • High School All-State Auditions March 3 – 4 at Gilbert HS
  • High School All-State Festival April 6 – 8 at ASU


As we look forward to next year's conference, here are few exciting potential innovations that we are looking into for our 2017 conference:

  • using Guidebook for next year's conference. Guidebook is an event app for conference in which you can build a customizable schedule, receive important updates, and provide feedback on clinics and conference. This would replace the printed program that we have used in year's past, but conference schedules / grids would still be available. We will be discussing and voting on pursuing Guidebook at our next meeting
  • continuing open forum sessions, with specific topics based on the needs of Arizona music teachers
  • streamlining the process for informing clinicians if they have been accepted for conference


One important agenda item for our next meeting on May 7 is to finalize handbook revisions for all AMEA, ABODA and ACE handbooks. If you have noticed any discrepancies, please email the appropriate constituent organization president no later than April 29.

AMEA President Jennifer Hamilton

ABODA President Bill Humbert

ACE President Darin Shryock at

AzSGM President Anneka Bergstrand


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The Arizona Society for General Music (AzSGM) recently hosted a Make and Take on March 19th at Sunset Ridge Elementary School in the Deer Valley Unified School district. An excellent workshop was led by the fabulous Dianne Anderson-Nickel of the Phoenix Elementary School district. Attendees learned some great tricks such as making pitched pan-pipes from PVC tubing, how to wrap and create mallets with dowels and bouncy balls, tips for making listening maps vibrant with young learners, how to create large "floor" staves for students, and more! Be sure to e-mail or annekabergstrand@gmail.comto be added to our communications list so you can attend future AzSGM events!

The Power Of ACCOUNTABILITY In the Performing Ensemble by Dave Kuhns

For a portion of my career as a teacher, I was under the mistaken impression that my function was to make the world safe for Holst and his colleagues. I would gather as much background information as I could on the literature I was preparing, take conducting classes and listen to reference recordings.

While all of those activities were academically sound, they did not radically improve the overall product from my ensembles. All of my students knew of the importance of Holst, but couldn't play his music in tune with any technical fluency. It would be like researching watchmaking to figure out what time it is.

My “road to Damascus” experience came when I made the decision to try out this “accountability thing”. Instead of warming the group up as quickly as I could so I could begin the process of enlightening the group to the musical nuances hidden in the literature, I made the decision to make sure that each of the members of the ensemble could produce characteristic sounds on their instruments, could autonomously decode musical notation and could demonstrate fluency in performing scales, arpeggios and technical etudes in every key.

To ensure that growth in each of these areas, I started assessing every student, every week in one of the fundamental areas. At first, I asked students to record scales and etudes during class one at a time in a practice room. I would dutifully listen to and grade their performances. The group started to get little better.

This process did hold the students accountable, but there was an important educational piece missing…feedback. I was evaluating their efforts in a vacuum and could only react to what they did wrong without having the ability to offer suggestions as to how to improve. I was constantly telling them that their musical “car” had a flat tire when what they really needed was information on how to change the flat tire.

Out of that frustration I made a paradigm-shifting change and began holding evaluations in class so I could give immediate feedback...a weekly mini-lesson for every student. I decided to “give up” twenty minutes of class time every day to accommodate this process. I have never regretted that decision. The results were immediate and significant and the performance level of the ensemble improved rapidly.

At first I credited the success of this process to my awesome teaching prowess, but soon came to realize that I had overestimated my role. Whereas an anonymous source can leave a rude, angry and sometimes ruthless comment on a youtube video, this live assessment in class eliminated this veil of anonymity. The consequence in the band was that no student in any section or in any chair in a section could just occupy the space. Once a week they had the opportunity to publicly demonstrate that they were actually willing to improve and, at the same time, contribute to the ensemble's improvement.

(You might be wondering what kept the super shy students for whom a public performance was a daunting task from freaking out. They were given the opportunity to assess privately with me twice, then they got to choose a friend to be there for the third assessment, I got to choose an additional person to be there for the fourth assessment, we each got to choose an additional person every week after that until they decided they were ready for their debut performance. The longest that process has gone so far is three weeks…)

There was another unintended consequence I should mention: the weekly assessment provided me the opportunity to publicly praise individual improvement, and it gave the ensemble members the chance to do the same. There are almost daily high-fives from peers and spontaneous applause that recognize the individual's efforts in a meaningful level well beyond a numerical grade.

There is a well-known business meme that says “whatever gets monitored, gets done.” I have become a true believer in accountability in the performance ensemble and have finally figured out why it is such a powerful tool.

Dave Kuhns is the Director of Bands at Deer Valley High School. Previously he was the director of many championship-quality bands, orchestras and choirs in Southern California, where he also served as an officer in the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association.

He is an accomplished musician, playing professionally in Los Angeles, and is a widely respected adjudicator and guest conductor. He has served as an adjudicator for the Fiesta Bowl Band Championship since 1988 and has been an adjudicator in Arizona since 1990, currently serving on the ABODA Festival Adjudication Committee and as a head judge for both marching and concert events .


Looking for some short but compelling videos about the power of music education? Each video below is 4 to 6 minutes long and could be used for recruitment at your next concert or parent meeting!

How Playing an Instrument Benefits Your Brain (4'44)

Eric Whitacre: A Choir as Big as the Internet (6'21)

Music as a Language - Victor Wooten (5'00)

In Memoriam

Millard H. (Mel) Kinney, Emeritus Professor of Music at Northern Arizona University (NAU), died Wednesday, March 9, 2016 in Sun City West, Arizona. Mel was born in Ontario, Oregon on February 10, 1929 to Alice (nee Brink) and Lloyd Kinney. He is survived by cousin Marjorie Bailey, her son Gregory Fuller, and his daughters Chelsea Jean and Allison Ann Fuller, all of Beaverton, Oregon. A memorial service and a celebration of life will be held Saturday, April 16, 2016, at 3 PM in the sanctuary at the Sun Lakes United Methodist Church, 9248 E. Riggs Rd., Sun Lakes, Arizona 85248.

Few men have likely ever achieved the legacy Mel Kinney has left. In the 30 plus years he taught at NAU he developed first-rate choirs of all types. His “Splinters” did several storied USO tours abroad. The crowning choral music work of Mel’s career was the “Shrine of the Ages Concert Choir”. When he became the conductor of that storied ensemble, they were still part of the NBC broadcast (begun in 1939) of the Easter sunrise at Arizona’s Grand Canyon. After the radio broadcast ended, Shrine built a reputation throughout the United States as a superb collegiate choir—a reputation that continues to thrive today. Mel also developed several events that still occur in Flagstaff. The NAU Jazz and Madrigal Festivals (begun in 1977 with 7 choirs invited) continues today, with approximately 140 high school choral ensembles performing in 6 different Flagstaff venues every February. Mel began the renowned “NAU Christmas Dinner” 41 years ago and the four evening dinner performances sell out in only a few days. For those Arizonans who love choral music, admission to this dinner/performance is a highly sought ticket.

Several awards were presented to Mel during his time at NAU. In 1980, it was the NAU Faculty and Students’ Recognition of Service Award. The American Choral Directors Association honored him in 1985. After Mel’s retirement, NAU Shrine alumni created the “Mel Kinney Scholarship” in 1990. In 2005, Mel was inducted into the Arizona Hall of Fame by the Arizona Music Educators Association. Finally—two years ago in December, Dr. Edith A. Copley (NAU Director of Choral Activities) honored Mel by commissioning a new choral piece for him to conduct at the 2014 NAU Holiday Dinner (the 40th anniversary of the dinner). This was also a reunion of Mel’s alums and was to be his final performance at his beloved university. After his retirement from NAU in 1985, Mel’s influence continued to grow in the area of church choral music. He served as the Minister of Music at the Church of the Beatitudes in Phoenix, Arizona for ten years and later served as the Director of Music at the Sun Lakes United Methodist Church in Sun Lakes, Arizona. The impact of his teaching and music-making was just as potent for his singers in those churches as it had been at NAU and he grew the choirs to greater numbers than they had previously known.

Mel knew how to love every person for who they were and made friends in every aspect of his life. His “family” was huge. Countless people from all walks of life have been impacted by his love and energy are saddened to lose a truly great man. To leave condolence messages for Mel’s family please visit

Memorial contributions may be made to the Mel Kinney Scholarship Fund (#1137), NAU Foundation, PO Box 4094, Flagstaff, AZ 86011-4094, or online at

Arizona Music Educators Association

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