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State music association elects SHS choral leader

September 2, 2012

Regina Weeks, front, leads the Starkville High School Madrigals in practice Tuesday. The Madrigals standing near her, from left to right, are Akash Shaunak, Nathanael Houston and Myron Barnes. (Photo by Steven Nalley, SDN)

Regina Weeks was asked to run for president of the Mississippi Music Educators Association four times, and only recently has she gone through with it.

Weeks, choral director at Starkville High School, said it was not a lack of willingness that led her to decline; it was just that life got in the way. In just a few short years, she said, her mother and father passed away, her youngest daughter graduated from college, her oldest daughter got married and she pursued a certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

“Each time they asked me, something major was going on,” Weeks said. “I did not feel like I could give it all of my inner-self. This last time they asked, I thought, ‘Well, there’s really no reason why I should say no.’ They really need good leaders who are passionate about music education ... (and) I can’t imagine anyone going through school without music. It’s just that important to me.”

Weeks won the election and began her term as MMEA director this semester, coordinating statewide efforts to bring music education to every school and to make music as central to education as math, science, reading and history.

Andrea Coleman, MMEA executive director, said organization presidents serve for two-year terms, with another two-year term as president-elect preceding and a third two-year term as immediate past president afterward, for a total of six years. She said Weeks exhibited strong leadership skills and a track record of involvement in MMEA, making her a successful candidate.

“I know she had been approached several times before she said yes to running,” Coleman said. “(She also) provides a quality education for the students at SHS. It’s a direct result of her being involved in our organization because we provide professional development. She’s conscientious. She’s already shown some signs of being interested in leadership.”

One of the SHS Madrigals, sophomore Melinda Xu, said she could attest to Weeks’ skills as a teacher. Weeks shows strong dedication to her work, holding them to high standards, she said, but her students are also allowed to have fun.

“It’s not exactly so strict in here; it’s a little at-ease,” Xu said. “It helps us relax and sing better.”

Weeks said the MMEA lets music teachers from across the state share teaching ideas and offers master classes, several of which she teaches. The MMEA also advocates keeping music education in the public school system on the state and national level, she said, and it is a subdivision of the National Association for Music Education. As MMEA president, Weeks attended a NAfME conference in Washington, D.C. this summer, and she said she met with Thad Cochran, Gregg Harper, and aides for Mississippi’s other U.S. senators and representatives.

“It was nice to find out Thad Cochran was a musician all through his life,” Weeks said. “He actually has a baby grand piano. We were very quickly reminded that it is an election year, and not a lot is being done to add new things to the table. What we asked is that we keep the music education we have.”

Coleman said MMEA serves as a unifying force for music education, advocating for legislators and other leaders to take music education seriously. She wants every child to have music education access, she said, because she believe music makes better students.

“(Music educators) keep the students engaged,” Coleman said. “If you’ve got a student that’s struggling, sometimes music is the difference. It makes good employees and good citizens. (Music-performing students have) been in groups of people and had to learn to get along, how to be in an ensemble with other people.”

On Aug. 8-10, Weeks will attend a conference for NAfME’s Southern Division in Atlanta, Ga. Weeks said one of the key topics there will be implementation of music education as a core subject.

The federal government has already established music education as a core subject, she said, just like social studies, science, math and English, but music is the only core subject with no testing procedures. It will be four years before music testing is implemented nationwide, she said, largely because of the challenge of testing students on music when not all of them are musical performers.

“We’re working diligently to be ready when this comes down the turnpike,” Weeks said. “With the economy the way it is, music is often looked at as a frill. The legislature says differently.”

Weeks said those who want to support MMEA and other arts initiatives around the state can visit http://www.msmea.org to sign up for an “Arts In Motion” car tag the MMEA recently proposed to the state legislature.

The car tag costs $31, and she said $24 of each purchase will go to MMEA.

“We have to have 300 signed up before they’ll let us produce the car tag,” Weeks said. “If the car tag (is not produced,) we’ll reimburse your money. We really want to get this out there. This is something we’ve been really excited about.”

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