ASTA 2016 (Belated...)

When I first drafted this (in March) I was on the plane on my way home from the ASTA National Conference in Tampa, FL, and I had so many thoughts and feelings! I did a decent job of sharing snippets on Twitter and Facebook through the first day and a half of the conference, but then I got so caught up in awesomeness that I didn’t even open Facebook or Twitter for the remainder of conference. Shocking, I know! So this is my attempt to condense the snippets and share why this conference is such an amazing experience for me every year.

My number one, favorite part of conference is my string “family.” My family grows every year by meeting new colleagues and making new friends. My family includes people that I taught with as a K-12 teacher, people that I attended school with (undergrad and grad school), people that I’ve worked summer camps with, people that are now my colleagues at the collegiate level, and people I know exclusively because of the ASTA conference. The faculty that make up the Collegiate Roundtable are some of my favorite people at this conference. Each year I am in awe of the brainpower and ambition that is obvious in those meetings, yet there is also incredible kindness. For example, at the research poster session, one of the “big names” in string music education came up to my poster. I asked if she wanted the spiel and she said, “you can give me the spiel but really I just wanted to say hi and see how you are.” These are the people I want to be surrounded by! Hence the picture on this blog - a few of my "family" members. 

But in addition to those higher ed people, I continued to be awed by the desire of string teachers to learn! That may sound silly, but I am inspired by the teachers of all levels and styles, from across the country, who come to this conference with a sincere desire to learn and improve. Some of my evidence comes from the 45 people who were willing to get up and attend my 7am Sunrise Session about apps! (For the record, only 8 of those people were my friends. The rest came of their own free will! ;-) ) And many of the other Sunrise Sessions were also very well attended. Unfortunately I ran out of handouts, but within an hour of my session being finished I had emails from people who attended, requesting the handout, and also emails from people who couldn’t attend but wanted the handout. These people are eager to learn! I am so proud to be part of a profession that (generally) wants to grow and improve. It takes work to learn new tricks and change old habits. These professionals are not afraid of this important work.

The string world is a small world, but an incredibly supportive one. Perhaps there is some causation there? Only a few weeks before ASTA I made public my new job in Colorado. It was amazing how fast that news traveled and how many people at the conference knew about my new gig. Not only did they know, but every single person was excited for me and supportive of me. Since my transition out of my current University was a bit messy, this support was incredibly affirming. Similarly, there was a group of students at conference from my new school, the University of Northern Colorado. The UNC students were so welcoming! They sought me out (!!!!) and not only welcomed me but also introduced me to every Colorado-connected person at ASTA. :-)

Particularly at this stage in my career where I am transitioning and relationships are changing, the support and positive atmosphere that exist at this conference were much needed and much appreciated. I’m just so blessed… I LOVE WHAT I DO AND I GET TO DO IT WITH AMAZING PEOPLE.