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Great things can happen with small numbers. (Forum focus: local associations).

Editor's Note: the Durum Triangle Music Teachers Association was named MTNA's 2003 Local Association of the Year.

The Durum Triangle Music Teachers Association (DTMTA) was formed in 1990 in Langdon, North Dakota. Langdon, a rural town in the northeast part of the state, has a population of approximately 2,200. In 1990, the county was known for its large production of Durum wheat, so the local association took on the name to include teachers in the area and not just Langdon. The local originated with six members and has since lost three to retirement. The remaining three members, Kathleen Johnson, Laura McLean and myself, have stayed connected as a group to promote musical education and admiration of the fine arts to our students. We rely on one another to glean ideas, advice and encouragement.

Four main areas keep us and our students thriving in music education. These are our local monthly meetings, the students' themed recitals and events, the annual Music Rally and the annual Honors Recital.

During the school year, we meet once a month in a member's home. With only three members, each of us has a few hats to wear. The combined officer positions simply rotate every two years; no need for a nominating committee in this group! We find many advantages to being small. Meeting times and places can be flexible, and delegating duties is simple because we realize we all have to pitch in or it won't get done. All three of us are very willing to do our share of the responsibilities. Each month, a general business meeting takes place and then a program is given. The programs include topics presented by one of us, learning through video and audio tapes, and sharing music, games, business policies and so forth. Often, the program is to plan an upcoming event for students. To help pay for events, each of us charges our respective students a $1 Student Activity Fee in the fall. This automatically places about $100 in the treasury every year, so it is a great fundraising tactic. We each also contribute $5 for yearly dues. The community and music stores within the state readily support us, as well. Durum Triangle has never had to have a fundraiser!

As a local, we are very active at the state level, with all three members holding positions on the North Dakota Music Teachers Executive Board. All three attend the state conference every year, and. we love to proclaim our 100 percent attendance! We also have attended national conferences.

An annual event for the students is held, usually a themed recital held in February. Past festivals that have been held throughout the years include the Mozart Festival, Lynn Freeman Olson Festival, 300 Years of the Piano and a Circus Celebration. The "festival" goals are to have a learning experience for the students and their audience, expand our own knowledge of the theme and its music, have as many students participate as possible and have fun. Many festivals have had performers, narrators, door prizes and a bingo game made to fit the theme. Throughout the recital, different students read clues found on bingo game cards distributed to the audience. The clues help the audience learn many facts about the theme. There is only one winning card, and it is revealed after the last clue is read at the end of the recital. This game keeps everyone attentive and excited. The prizes have been metronomes, music, piano bags and miniature pianos filled with candy.

Another activity is having students perform Christmas music in area nursing homes. Also, in February 2003, Melody Bober came to Langdon for a "Music with Melody Day." Bober worked with the students in master classes and composition classes and performed in a recital with students who played her compositions. The Northern Lights Arts Council wrote a grant to help DTMTA bring Bober to Langdon. The students really enjoy working together and look forward to each year's events.

North Dakota MTA (NDMTA) encourages affiliated locals to sponsor Music Rallies for their students. DTMTA holds its annual Music Rally in April. It is a day of performance adjudication, as well as written theory and keyboard technique testing. The group requires all students to participate in the rally for its educational rewards and to make it economically feasible to hire adjudicators. With more than 100 students between three teachers, we have to be creative when organizing such an event. Two sites hold the day's activities. The students are scheduled in half-hour groups for both their performance and their written and aural tests. One teacher at each site is in charge of the written and aural test room. The third is the performance door monitor at one site, and volunteer parents monitor the door at the second site. There is one adjudicator at each site who listens and critiques students' performances of two memorized pieces of contrasting styles. The following week, the students are given their technique, transposition, harmonization and sight-reading tests by their own teachers at their regular lessons. If there are conflicts on the rally day due to other extracurricular activities, and there always are, the teachers hold an alternate rally session mid-week in the evening for those students. The students know the piano rally is an annual event, and they consider it their "end of the year test." We go over the test results and critiques with the students, and individual studios also give rewards to those students with the best scores on the written theory and keyboard technique tests. The piano rally is a wonderful goal to work toward, and it helps us evaluate students in each area of piano education. The rally also evaluates our own teaching, since we are held accountable for teaching each area.

The last event of the year is the Honors Recital, held in May. The recital recognizes students for performance excellence at the Music Rally. The adjudicators "star" the best performances, and the selected students perform in the Honors Recital. The local newspaper takes a large group picture of the students and features them in the paper. Attention given to students' hard work and achieved goals creates motivation for next year's activities.

We--DTMTA--want to encourage small locals to be active! Our success as a local is a combination of aggressive teaching, state MTA support and community support. Another boon is living in Langdon, which has only one school system's extra curricular schedule to deal with, and "everyone knows everyone." All of us have taught the children of the school's teachers, superintendent, principal and town ministers. We work with the music in our respective churches and teach children from other churches. Because of these solid teacher-student relationships, the schools and churches give use of their facilities for free. We make sure all events are publicized; therefore, the community and its organizations are very aware of DTMTA's existence. They call upon us and our students for a variety of performance opportunities, and Durum Triangle supports them.

There are many benefits to being a small MTA. Planning for events such as the Music Rally is easy because there are only three teachers. There aren't any committees or sub-committees. We all live a couple blocks apart and know, respect, support and learn from one another. We have worked hard together for a long time. The focus is on our students: What can we collectively do to enhance their piano study? Another benefit to being small is the students know and support each other. They talk about the Music Rally at school, and as a result, there is an element of competition and camaraderie that pushes many students to achieve their best.

Kathleen, Laura and I were so surprised and extremely grateful for the National Local Association Award from MTNA. The $500 award will be used for future events for our students and music education in the community. MTNA and NDMTA provide the backbone and support Durum Triangle MTA needs to be successful. Please remember that great things can happen with small numbers.


For more ideas about local association programs, go to, click on American Music Teacher, then click on "Tell me more about Bonus Bytes."

RELATED ARTICLE: Spotlight on local association programs.

To help local associations plan for the upcoming years activities, it may be useful to see what other groups have done. The following program titles and descriptions were culled from local and state associations' newsletters. These events range from hands-on activities to help with MTNA-related programs, such as Professional Certification and running an independent studio, to presentations about various aspects of music and pedagogy. Peruse the list to find inspiration and ideas.

* MTNA Professional Certification Day

* Cantabile? Can We Really Play Like a Singer Sings?

* Master Class

* Students and Seniors Sharing Pianos

* Piano Trios by and for Young People

* Jazz Pedagogy for the Traditionally Trained Pianist

* Performance Anxiety

* Alexander Technique

* Music Career Fair

* Ethnic and Folk Influences on Major Composers

* Music and Dance of the Baroque

* Baroque Performance Practices

* Composition Workshop

* How Children Learn

* What We Charge and Why

* Charms and Challenges of Adult Piano Lessons

Lisa Schuler has been an independent music teacher in Langdon, North Dakota, for fifteen years, and she has degrees in elementary education and music from the University of North Dakota. She is secretary for DTMTA and North Dakota MTA Local Association chair.
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Title Annotation:music association services
Author:Schuler, Lisa
Publication:American Music Teacher
Geographic Code:1U4ND
Date:Aug 1, 2003
Previous Article:"Co-missioning" composers. (Forum focus: composer commissioning).
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