For Michael Brownell, the director of vocal music for McGraw Middle and High School, music is vital in developing important life skills: collaborating, critical thinking and problem solving.
“These are all important skills for furthering education or employment,” he said Wednesday. Having been in the McGraw Central School District for more than 30 years, Brownell will take these important lessons on the necessity for music in education in his new role as president-elect for the eastern division of the National Association for Music Education.
Brownell was elected to the position in February and will represent 13 states in the north and northeastern part of the country, advocating for the needs and support of school music programs on the national level, he said.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “My whole career, I’ve dedicated myself to helping music educators and music students in our schools.”
The 2020-21 school year will be the last for Brownell, who during his time there has directed the middle and high school choruses and produced and did the music directing for the spring high school musical.
“I am proud to have worked with a person of his caliber here at McGraw Schools,” said Melinda McCool, the superintendent at the McGraw Central School District. “Mike brings a tremendous amount of practical knowledge to the NAfME. I am confident that he will be an exceptional advocate for music educators as he begins this next path in his career as the president-elect of the National Association for Music Educators.”
Teaching music during the pandemic has been a change from what Brownell is normally used to, he said. Indoor in-person concerts have been canceled and rehearsals have been limited.
Additionally, some students are learning music virtually, which has been a new adjustment.
The pandemic, though, has opened new opportunities for teaching music.
Recently, Brownell had students perform in something akin to a talent show with students playing piano, singing or dancing while those watching gave feedback.
“That really worked out well as you’re addressing what the student’s interests are,” he said.
While indoor concerts have been canceled, Brownell was able to have an outdoor concert in December where people could drive or walk by the performers to hear them at a distance.
Coming up next week, the school musical, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” will be livestreamed and feature only the seniors performing as they are the ones who the pandemic has cost the most musical opportunities, he said.
While Brownell will no longer work full-time for the school district, he said he will supervise student music teachers from local colleges, which he’s had experience with and has enjoyed.
“It’s another way to help shape the future of the profession,” he said.
Brownell said he wants to use his new position for the good of students learning music.
“Whenever you have opportunities to work together for the betterment of students, I want to seek those opportunities out,” he said.