By Jonathan Babcock, DMA, Texas State University
Throughout my years as a student, I was always drawn to opportunities to lead and contribute to my musical community. As a high schooler, I was thrilled to be elected the president of the school marching band. The process of being elected by my peers, provided this lanky, somewhat-awkward teenager a new sense of confidence and self-esteem. I enjoyed the feeling of responsibility and found great pleasure in successfully organizing and managing the annual fruit sale delivery and the annual band banquet. I learned the importance of responsibility and community. For the first time I was in the position of regularly communicating with a large group of people. I also was required to speak as the representative of that same large group, in a professional manner. I found great pride when I was asked my opinion by a teacher, and my advice was taken!
Flash forward thirty years and I have now assumed the role of advisor. The student becomes the teacher. In 2010, shortly after I arrived, I founded the Texas State University student chapter of ACDA (American Choral Directors Association). At the time I had no idea what the organization would actually do, or what role they would play in the greater choral program. But, I was certain that offering students the opportunity to organize and take a stake in the department they love, could only be a benefit. It took some trial and error to find its purpose, but the chapter now plays an integral role in our choral program.
Since its founding our chapter has provided service to both the department and community. We started small with organizing the annual choral department picnic and created and organized a lab choir to give conducting students more opportunities. We then branched out to the larger community hosting an annual regional high school choral festival. It didn’t take long before our chapter began offering leadership and service at the national level, being invited to present at both their regional and national conferences.
At all levels of experience and maturity, there are opportunities to offer choristers opportunity for leadership. When a different kindergartener is given the responsibility of passing out and collecting the Orff mallets in music class, they are providing a service to the class and experiencing guided leadership. The position of section leader has many different definitions and can be assigned or elected for either musical or organizational intent. Leadership positions are not only valuable to students. Members of adult church or community choirs take great pride in contributing to or being elected to a position of merit. Choristers would be honored to assume positions of librarian, historian, or attendance assistant. Although these positions seem menial on the surface, they offer a choir member the opportunity to contribute in an extra-musical way that is gratifying to them. These “titles” are validating to the individual and reinforce the importance of contributing to the whole.
Both secondary level and higher education have several national organizations that encourage student participation and provide structured mission statements and instruction on starting and maintain a chapter. Journals, meetings, and conferences provide student members with tools for success, and establish a bridge to the greater educational and musical goals of the organization. Below is a list of some national music organizations that focus and support student leadership.
- Tri-M Music Honor Society
- American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) Student Chapters
- National Association for Music Education (NAfME) Student Chapters
- Texas Music Education Association Texas Future Music Educators (many states have similar programs that can be accessed from their organization website
For further research in student leadership, I recommend the following sources:
- Lautzenheiser, T. (2002). The Selection and Development of Effective Student Leaders. Teaching Music through Performance in Band Volume 4 (pp. 97-108). Chicago, IL: GIA Publication Inc.
- Logue, C. T., Hutchens, T.A. & Hector, M. A. (2005). Student leadership: A phenomenological exploration of postsecondary experiences. Journal of College Student Development. (46)4. 393-408.
- Spillane, J. P. Halverson, R., & Diamond, J. B. (2001). Investigating school leadership practice: A distributed perspective. Educational Researcher. 30(3), 23-28.
- Conner, J. O. & Strobel, K. (2007). Leadership development: An examination of individual and programmatic growth. Journal of Adolescent Research. (22)3. 275-297.
Explore ways of facilitating student leadership in your program. Enabling student leadership today, will ensure musical leadership for generations to come!
There are over 150 active ACDA student chapters across the country. Chapters offer leadership development, educational programs, and service learning opportunities. For additional information, and to find out how to establish a chapter on your campus, contact Garrett Hammonds, ACDA membership & communications coordinator, at .