MAEIA on the Move: Making Connections at the Michigan Music Conference

By Cathy DePentu

The 18th Annual Michigan Music Conference was held Jan. 19-21, 2023 in Grand Rapids and I was excited to attend. The Michigan Music Conference features school ensemble concerts, performances from Honors Choirs, All-State Bands, and Orchestras; sessions for in-service and pre-service teachers; professional development clinics; hands-on technology workshops; and association membership and business meetings. Attendance includes approximately 9,000 teachers, administrators, students, speakers, and guests.

Attending the annual state music conference is important to me in many ways, both personally and professionally. As a recent retiree, I miss my colleagues from across the state and the conference is a way to catch up and stay involved in the profession. Hearing the outstanding ensembles, attending fascinating sessions and seeing all of the proud parents and state students reinforces my belief that our work in music education is important and valued.

The purpose of the Michigan Music Conference is “to provide relevant professional development and vibrant musical experiences that support music education for educators and their students.” This purpose aligns well with the goals of MAEIA in playing a supporting role for arts educators. At this year’s conference I served as a MAEIA fellow sharing with others how MAEIA can help teachers.

I was eager to describe the well-developed MAEIA resources with my colleagues in the classroom: Demonstrating Educator Effectiveness, Collaborative Scoring, Better Together in the Arts, and in particular the Assessment Catalogue. When speaking to university education professors, my focus was on explaining how MAEIA can provide resources to their pre-service teachers. Incorporating a presentation or workshop describing our resources and having an opportunity to explore the assessments could provide future music educators a better idea of how to easily assess their students and access all of the support MAEIA provides. With both groups I stressed how willing MAEIA is to work with educators and their students either in person or virtually.

It was satisfying to see that many attendees seemed to have an awareness of MAEIA. Many of the Music Education Department heads remembered conversations from last year and were grateful for the informative packets available for them. As educators and students move farther away from the stresses of pandemic instruction and a ‘new normal’ begins to emerge, arts educators are looking for more support and MAEIA is here for them. This year, there was a strong receptivity to exploring the available resources, including new offerings in Social Emotional Learning and Culturally Responsive Teaching.

I am always excited about attending the Michigan Music Conference. I see people I’ve known and respected for years; I hear exceptional ensembles and recharge my enthusiasm for music education. The people who were my mentors 27 years ago are now valued friends and my former student teachers are now presenting sessions and have students in All-State ensembles. As I settle into a different role as emeritus educator, I am passionate about sharing all that MAEIA has to offer and helping the next generation of educators grow in their passion and profession.

Photo courtesy of the MMC conference website.


Cathy DePentu taught instrumental music at all levels for 40 years, spending 25 as Director of Orchestras for Plymouth Canton Community Schools. Her focus has been on improving student musical achievement and independent performance skills through the use of student directed/project based learning within the large performing ensemble. As an early member of the MAEIA project, she was able to create, field test and implement assessments and data collection methods to effectively track student progress and demonstrate educator effectiveness.

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