Alabama Music Teachers Association
Affiliated with Music Teachers National Association

Our History

By Susie Francis Dempsey, Historian
For the 50th Anniversary Conference ~ June 6-8, 2002
Birmingham-Southern College ~ Ronald Shinn, President

Part I: Early History of AMTA (1977-1985)

Professionally we have made significant strides in our quest for recognition by the State Board of Education. In response to a proposal made by officers of AMTA, the board passed a resolution in 1980 permitting school superintendents to recognize students who study privately with Certified members of AMTA. Our Certification Vice President continues to notify superintendents of those certified teachers in the school districts.

Musically we have grown substantially in student participation in the auditions, not only in the pre-college and college level in the state, but also in state participation on the divisional and national levels. Our students have entered performance and composition competitions at all levels boasting winners at all levels as well. Our state conventions have been expanded to four day events in order to present all the recitals needed for our winners to perform, and to continue to include the high calibre of artist performers and clinicians that is our tradition. We have continued to encourage a high level of performance in the state auditions by offering judges workshops in support of our district piano auditions. At these workshops, teachers can become familiar with the way students are judged, and those who plan to judge will be informed and guided in a standardized procedure.

AMTA has been recognized over the years by MTNA for several various: reasons: 1) one of the highest retention rates in membership, 2) a large audition participation, 3) the largest contribution to the National Scholarship Foundation in 1979, 4) the National Collegiate Artist Winner in piano in 1980 (Maribeth Gowen from the University of Alabama who studied with Amanda Penick), and 5) the first recipient of the Master Teacher Certificate (Dr. Jerry Alan Bush, Mobile).

Our state organization continues to be led by the majority of independent teachers who are the backbone of our structure, professionally and musically, and who continue to cultivate a close relationship with the growing numbers of college level teachers who have been welcomed into the leadership. With this successful combination of talents and diverse interest, AMTA expects to continue its leadership in activities provided by the national organization.

Part II: History from 1985-2000

Leadership: Since 1985, the AMTA Executive Boards have been led by devoted, hardworking officers with exemplary presidents with vision, enthusiasm and outstanding leadership abilities that have steadily brought our association into the twenty-first century. Our history continues to reveal their individual attempts to energize, clarify and simplify all endeavors associated with running our organization. Often their individual and unique goals and objectives necessitated making changes and they have continued to listen to the membership who communicated needs and suggestions. They have also been able to maintain close associations with MTNA. Starting in 1998, state presidents were invited to Cincinnati for Leadership Summits (Conferences) to communicate openly with the national officers, board and with their counterparts in other states.

One particular exciting financial aspect for Alabama MTA was the achievement of non-profit (tax exempt)status with the Internal Revenue Service (1984-85 by James Fairleigh). With the inevitable need to restructure the Executive Board, changes in board positions included 1) the deletion of the Membership Treasurer (1990), 2) the redefining of the duties of the elected Auditions Vice Presidents (1988) and the addition of the following positions:

In 1997 in an effort to study how to “improve AMTA,” Elizabeth Hostetter, appointed three specific Ad Hoc Committees. They included: 1) a finance committee, 2) a committee to study the structure of the board and 3) one to look at state and local auditions including severe charges of ethics violations. Auditions committees have routinely been appointed every five years to study auditions and to revised the Student Activities Handbook.

Our History: Regarding the preservation of our history, Elizabeth Hamner (Past President) was instrumental in having our old scrapbooks and other important AMTA records prior to 1995 housed in the Special Collections Library at the University of Alabama (1995). Louise Stewart Bell, who served for many years as Historian, had kept these records until then. The current AMTA Historian prepares a scrapbook annually highlighting past conventions and includes news submitted by local organizations. At present she houses the memorabilia since 1995.

Keeping Up-to-Date: As board members began to enjoy quick and easy communications by writing to each other via the Internet, AMTA also became more “up-to-date” by having its own Web site through the auspices of Auburn University (Roy Wylie). Teachers could actually fill out and print the state and national audition forms on line. Through the Huntingdon College address (Ronald Shinn) our conventions (1999-2001) enjoyed having their own site where we could read about the upcoming conventions and later see pictures taken at the convention.

AMTA Members Serving at Division and National Levels: The following AMTA members have served at higher levels of leadership in the national association:

Constitution: A major revision of the entire Constitution (to keep it in line with that of MTNA) was completed in 1998. There were two particularly important changes made in the By-Laws in 1988 which included the activation of the Past President’s Council (Fairleigh and Trosclair) and the restructuring of the duties of the Auditions Vice Presidents. The Past President’s Council has continued to meet at our annual conventions in an important advisory capacity. Ten of our past presidents attended the convention in 2001.

Communications: In order to communicate with our members, the organization has continued to publish a newsletter three times a year. The News was renamed the AMTA SOUNDBOARD (1993) as a result of a contest among our members. A “new” AMTA logo was proudly displayed on The News (1988) and from time to time changes were made such as: thicker paper and new layout with advertisements (1992), the addition of pictures (1995) and more informative articles (technology). Also in 1998, the editor of theSOUNDBOARD requested that news to be sent to her via Email.

In 1995, we were able to offer members a new Policy Manual (Roy Wylie) to help everyone keep up with the audition procedures and general information that all members might need.

In the area of Public Relations, an informative slide show was created (1993) to share with college pedagogy classes and community groups high-lighting the various AMTA activities and advantages of joining AMTA/MTNA.

Membership: Having reached an all time high of 461members in 1982 with 55 new members that year, the following years saw a decline. But we maintained an average of 400. Great efforts have been made since that time to rebuild our numbers, especially in the teaching areas other than piano. Strides have been made in the area of strings which are revealed in the increasing numbers of students in the strings competitions. Our membership total in 1994-95 saw a significant rise from 322 to 393.

With efforts in membership came the addition of new affiliating local organizations that met the needs of music areas other than piano. In 1988, one new incentive was adopted by the Executive Board when monetary grants were offered to the local organizations. The new local organizations include:

Members Honored: Beginning in 1999, we began to recognize our own AMTA members in various ways. By bestowing AMTA Honorary Membership to one member each year, he or she would be able to attend convention but not hold office or enter students in the auditions. In 1999 this honor and distinction was bestowed on Jane Self Burnham of Anniston.

Another recognition in 1993 was the recognition of Galye J. Martin of Gadsden who had attended 26 uninterrupted (complete) state conventions.

In 1992 at the 40th Anniversary convention held at Auburn University, we invited our charter members to attend and honored them at the convention. We also received several letters of congratulations from those who could not attend.

One special award was studied and recommended by the Past President’s Council. The Teacher of the Year Award initiated in 1995 has recognized the following members:

Conventions: AMTA has continued to bring its members outstanding convention artists and clinicians of national and international repute. Without exception we have been impressed and inspired by those chosen by convention Vice Presidents. Our conventions always include several student winner recitals and concerts presented by our own members. In addition, there are various workshops on judging and general topics, teacher panels, teacher displays, technology sessions, music exhibits and a few necessary business meetings. We have resumed our participation in the MTNA Composer Commissioning Program (1999) by matching MTNA funds for an original work which is premiered at the state convention. In 1999, Charles Mason of Birmingham-Southern College composed a chamber work entitled “Games” for piano trio.

Teacher Certification: Teacher certification continues to be a challenging endeavor as the national association continues to support the efforts of the state MTAs with new and updated plans to interest teachers. In 1995 we boasted of having 71 certified teachers in AMTA. In 1999, the Certification Vice President (Betty Bridges) presented us with a new Alabama certification logo to be used along side the national emblem. Articles about certification appear more often in the AMTA Soundboard. Getting members to be certified continues to be a big challenge for the MTNA and the profession in general.

Student Activities-Auditions: For a number of years there was a decline in the number of students and teachers participating in the student audition programs. We were especially low in non-piano participation in the spring in-state auditions. Various student incentives and awards were offered at district and state auditions as well as for those performing at the state conventions. The string area has responded well (1994) and a separate audition is now held and has been expanded to include a concerto competition (1996). As a result, the state convention began to present separate string solo recitals.(1999)

District Piano Auditions. Piano continues to be the most popular performance area (seven pre-college District audition sites) with sustained interest from elementary through graduate school levels. We continue to hold judges workshops for district piano judges and to update rules for those wishing to judge. In an attempt to standardize the theory judging across the state, we have incorporated the use of theory evaluation sheets (1994) for each contestant. Through the efforts of special committees every five years, AMTA continues to update the Student Activities Handbook by allowing all members a chance to make suggestions. In 1993, we saw a rise in the number of piano students in District II (Enterprise) when the audition was reinstated.

MTNA Auditions. Alabama has achieved recognition several times for its national winners. The instrumental area (junior high through college levels) enjoyed a rise in participation in the Alabama MTNA competitions with several performers being chosen as winners at the Southern Division and at the MTNA National competition:

Several other Alabamians were chosen Southern Division Winners as well as Alternate Winners at the National competition.

Human Interest Story: History bears one human interest story occurring at the state MTNA competitions held on December 3, 1993 at the University of Montevallo. The auditions were forced to evacuate the music building where an electric transformer blew due to very bad weather. The entire group of students, parents, teachers and judges traveled to Birmingham to finish the auditions after a 3 hour delay.

AMTA Participation in MTNA Foundation: Another aspect of our relationship with MTNA and national endeavors is reflected in our involvement and hard work in raising funds for the National Foundation. The Foundation provides financial help for students to attend national and divisional competitions and for further learning experiences or for professional development for music teachers. AMTA ranked as No.1 in our giving during 1992-1993. In 1985 we had also done particularly well by having a raffle to raise funds.

In 1996, our own member, Amanda Ward Penick (University of Alabama), was honored with a National Endowment in her name. As a result of a successful matching funds drive in Alabama, the endowment fund is now available for teacher grants. The Amanda Ward Penick Endowment Grants provide financial assistance to teacher-members for private study, college-level course work or other special projects that will enhance teaching skills of the recipients.

PART III: History from 2000-2002

Leadership: It is unusual that a husband and wife serve consecutive terms as First Vice President (Convention) and President of a state MTA. We were most fortunate to have this situation when Barbara Shinn (1998-2000) and Ronald Shinn (2000-2002) agreed to serve in these capacities. They have been outstanding leaders. They have indeed worked to keep us up-to-date. The AMTA membership list is now on the AMTA web site.

A new AMTA Foundation, jointly proposed by Susie Francis Dempsey and Barbara Laurendine was approved by the Board (2002). It will serve as a source of funds to assist in funding outstanding guest artists and clinicians for the annual conventions. Donations are tax deductible.

Conventions: AMTA received a grant from the Alabama Fine Arts Council to help defray expenses of the two artists at the 1999 Convention.

In 2001, we again participated in The MTNA Composer Commissioning Program by commissioning Craig First of the University of Alabama presented a new work at the 2001 convention at Samford University.

Membership: Continuing the tradition of recognizing our own members, the following Teachers of the Year and Honorary Member awards were presented at their respective conventions:

In 2000, the national association recognized Alberta Degarimore of Huntsville for her 50 years of membership in MTNA. At the AMTA 2000 Convention at Huntingdon College, our state association recognized Alberto and her service to AMTA.

Student Activities (Auditions): New Rules for district piano judges were decided which determined how often new and experienced judges should attend judges workshops.

There has been an increase in the number of pre-college age students in the area of vocal musicparticipating in our state auditions as a result of one particular teacher, Donna Tolar of Foley, Alabama. Also new to the pre-college in-state competitions is the addition of Chamber Music groups (2002).

Certification: In 2001, Karen Blankenship of Talledega became the first teacher in AMTA to achieve National Certification under the new plan (by examination).

National Honors and Recognition: Barbara Laurendine of Mobile (Past President of AMTA and Southern Division) was highly recognized at the 2000 Southern Division Banquet at the University of Alabama with a MTNA Foundation Fellow Award. She was also recognized for the honor at the MTNA 2001 Convention in Washington, D.C. The award was based on Barbara’s outstanding service to MTNA and for her exemplary leadership role.

The Baldwin County MTA was recognized as the first national winner of the MTNA Local Association of the Year at the 2000 MTNA Banquet in Washington, D.C. The award was based on diverse activities, student participation, degree of participation at all organizational levels and community involvement.” They demonstrated a “unique edge” in all categories.

Southern Division Meeting in Alabama: AMTA and the West Alabama MTA hosted the Southern Division Auditions (as it has done every nine years) in 2000 at the University of Alabama. It was a big effort despite this year’s hardships for the local association in Tuscaloosa (death, illnesses, and even tornado destruction). The local teachers along with those associated with the University ultimately, however, made it a success. They were also assisted by several other members and local affiliates who came to monitor, sent money and brought food. Roy Wylie of Auburn University was serving as President-Elect of the Southern Division and was in charge of scheduling all the events.