Shaping The Future of Music Education Starts with You

By Beth Horton

If you are anything like myself and the many teachers I get the privilege to speak with each week, one of the things we miss the most during this pandemic are the conferences. I have been swapping conference memories with my teaching colleagues lately and have heard incredible stories of previous conferences. It is beginning to sound like a list of bizarre Friends episodes: “The one with the bodybuilders…”, “The one where the fire alarm went off throughout the entire hotel…”, “The one with the bartender that threw stickers at our name badges…”, “The one with the gay pride parade…” The list goes on and on, but the one theme throughout is the amazing connections made at conferences outside of the sessions. So many after-hours conversations over dinners, in hallways, at a booth in the exhibit hall about the incredible learning happening.

Now, we are lucky to live in a time where our state music education conferences have all gone online, and there is a lot of content for us to absorb. But sitting in a day of zoom calls is exhausting. The team at Tonara wants to engage you in the discussion.

The InspirED Music Expo

To that end, this December 18th and 19th Tonara will be launching an event that is the first of its kind: An online event designed to engage and inspire music educators to plan the future of music education. We’ve ditched Zoom for a more dynamic platform where speakers will be encouraged and enabled to engage with you more than ever before. We are, now more than ever, standing at the edge of what could be massive change and transition in the field of education, and not only do we need to act to ensure that music is a vital part of that transition, but that we as educators are informed and have planned on where our place in that transition will be. The InspirED Music Expo is a call to arms for all music educators - from private studio owners to school educators - to help shape the future of our profession. The Expo has three tracks - Innovation, Connectivity, and Empowerment - all three filled to the brim with leaders in each category.


The Innovation track is for educators looking to innovate instruction in private lessons, small group instruction, and full-sized classes. New instructional practices, or new variations on old techniques, all scaled for music educators regardless of group size. Speakers like Tim Topham, Jimmy Rotherham, and Lee Whitmore will present topics ranging from new techniques teachers have discovered for the classroom in the era of Covid and how we might see those techniques changing in the post-Covid classroom and lesson. We will be treated to a wonderful discussion on music’s role in brain development from Dr. Charles Limb. Leila Viss will be providing amazing insights and activities to encourage musical composition from all learners.

Join Dr. Charles Limb at his panel discussion on December 19 at 11 am EST

Dr. Charles Limb, a doctor, and musician who researches the way musical creativity works in the brain will be leading the panel discussion on The Truth Behind Music & the Brain: How it all Connects.


The second track - Connectivity - is centered around the role of technology in our lives as music educators. Our ability to connect with students, curriculum, community, and music through technology is constantly increasing. Sessions include a presentation by Mike Grande from Rock Out Loud Live and using this exciting new platform to collaborate in real-time with students. Grace Lee from Note Quest will lead a presentation on Note Quest and how to use this app to engage students and enhance their music reading skills. Our focus in each of these sessions is how to bring learners and teachers closer together through technology in purposeful, intentional ways.

Join Mike Grande at his session on December 19th at 2 pm EST

Mike Grande, the owner and founder of Rock Out Loud will be leading a session on What Kids Realy Learn When They Attend Music School.


The third track - Empowerment - focuses on ways to empower music educators to meet the social and emotional needs of their students in the classroom with a session on Trauma Based Interventions from Gloria Tham-Haines and a presentation on Building the Dyslexic Brain from Becki Tapia Laurent. A session on advocacy from Stacy Swanson will provide practical actionable advice on how to keep students engaged in music year-round. It’s not just enough to empower teachers in the classroom, we also have sessions to empower teachers to care for themselves. You can’t give from an empty cup! Lesley Moffatt, author of Love the Job, Lose the Stress will be presenting a session on avoiding burnout and living a balanced life - a topic I think we can agree we are all in desperate need of now.

Join Nicola Cantan at her session on December 18th at 3 pm EST

Nicola Cantan, a piano teacher from Dublin, Ireland, will be leading a discussion on How to Sharpen Students' Stick-to-it-iveness.

Keynote Speaker - Dr. Anita Collins

Anita is an award-winning educator, researcher, and author in the field of brain development and music learning. She is internationally recognized for her unique work in translating the scientific research of neuroscientists and psychologists to the everyday parent, teacher, and student.

Tune in to her session on Friday, December 18th at 4 pm EST

Shape the Future

While these sessions will challenge and inspire you, we are also building those conference conversation moments with themed breakout room discussions hosted by our speakers and community leaders. We are looking forward to pedagogy pajama parties, coffee talks, happy hours, and to support the conference community outside of conference hours we will host a pop-up Facebook group “Tonara Music Expo After Hours” where we can continue to connect and engage in the dialogue. This has been the hardest semester of our teaching careers. Come to refill and charge your batteries and find answers and inspiration for the new year and be a part of the future of music education.