prev nav.svgnext nav.svgback to top.svg

From the Executive Director

Jay Wardeska Executive Director
I hope that the summer break provided you with a sense of renewal and rejuvenation and that your fall has been filled with music. As you no doubt know by now, the summer for OMEA was one of transition, transformation, and development as we worked to simultaneously implement a new website and online management system, new adjudicated event software, a new financial system, and many new initiatives that are currently under development.
We are fortunate to have a highly dedicated staff and team of volunteers. Our deep appreciation is due to OMEA staff members Mark Hensler, Director of Professional Development and Conference Management; Dane Newlove, Director of Adjudicated Event Materials and Awards; Bill Thomas, Director of Adjudications; Nick Turon, Director of Technology; and Bill Wittman, Director of Business and Tradeshow Operations for going above and beyond in their work to bring these many projects to fruition. Key to OMEA’s success is the leadership and dedication of our Board of Trustees -- Dan Ruckman, President; Brian Stevens, President-Elect; Ann Usher, Immediate Past President; Stephanie Bonitz, Secretary; Brandon DuVall, Treasurer; and Hilary Patriok, Editor of Triad.
Innovation is essential if we are going to keep pace with the demands of the continually changing educational landscape. While there will be challenges as our process continues, we anticipate that by the end of this academic year the entirety of the technology transition will be complete. It will most likely take an additional year to refine and improve. During this time, we will be grateful for the patience and grace of our membership as inevitable challenges arise. Our goal is to keep any disruptions in services to an absolute minimum. We thank you for your patience and understanding as we strive to provide the best possible experience for our members and their students.

The State of OMEA

Last winter, I outlined the Vision OMEA plan. The three stages of our plan are as follows: Phase One: Restoration, Phase Two: Refinement, and Phase Three: Reimagination. Phase One is all but complete. Our initial goal of restoration involved achieving the full return of pre-COVID activities including events, the professional development conference, and our member services while regaining financial stability. All services have returned, and 2023 participation in both adjudicated events and the professional development conference was at or above pre-COVID levels. While we are operating conservatively and on a tight budget, we hope to see a full financial recovery by this fiscal year’s end.
Phase Two involves the goal of “refinement” or taking current OMEA events and services and adapting them to be relevant to more music programs and teachers who possess very diverse needs. During the 2023-2024 academic year, several changes are occurring in the adjudicated events arena. This process began with modifications made to both technology and policy to address the needs of participating marching band programs. During the 2023-2024 academic year, the Adjudicated Events (AE) committee will be piloting a large group event model at State Orchestra events. This new model empowers teachers to choose from a variety of options and create an individualized large group experience. Additionally, the AE committee has created new classifications at solo and ensemble and large group events that provide a more diverse menu of opportunities. I encourage you to read the AE article in this issue for complete details. OMEA is collaborating more closely with our allied partners such as the Ohio Choral Directors Association (OCDA), Ohio String Teachers Association (OSTA), Jazz Education Connection of Ohio (JECO), Technology in Music Education (TI:ME), and the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education (OAAE) to further increase and diversify offerings at the 2024 OMEA Professional Development Conference. Through these refinements OMEA is better serving the needs of our members and making more events available while undertaking the steps necessary for Phase Three of Vision OMEA.
In Phase Three, we are striving to reimagine the scope and services of our association. Ohio is a demographically diverse state. We are charged with serving the needs of rural, suburban, and urban school districts of varied types and sizes that represent an array of socio-economic environments. We must serve varying philosophies and educational approaches, offerings, and curricula. Additionally, we now face unprecedented challenges in the education field including shortages of substitute teachers, bus drivers, and paraprofessionals. A teacher shortage is now a reality, and teacher retention is a looming challenge. OMEA is engaging its affiliation with the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) and the National Federation of High School Associations (NFHS) for targeted support to address these needs. A mentorship pilot program has been developed to provide support for pre-service and early-stage teachers. It is our hope that this program will soon be implemented state-wide. Initiatives are currently under development to provide performance and enrichment opportunities tailored to urban and rural programs as well as methods to provide support for diversifying general music and performance-based music opportunities for students. In short, Phase Three is underway. These projects will take time to develop and require additional resources to bring them into reality. We must stay the course to meet the needs of the changing 21st century music education climate.

Technology: The Coming Year and Beyond

Following the activation of the new website, several required projects have been completed or are underway. Marching Band registration and adjudicator assignments were successfully managed through the new website. Online conference registration is currently available. Adjudicator availability and assignment, event registration, event management, and post-event reporting are all currently in development for solo and ensemble and large group events. Simultaneously, we continue working to bring the association’s repository of files, historical records, and other services into the central management system. Our short-term goal is functionality—ensuring that all required services of our system are available this year. Once all necessary functions are operational, we will then begin the process of refining each area to ensure an optimum experience for our membership. The process has been difficult as our programming team does not possess the institutional knowledge of OMEA or the benefits or participation. Despite that, they have done an exemplary job in learning and reinventing the tools we have so fortunately enjoyed.
As members, I think we can each be proud of the tremendous progress that we have made and be excited by the projects currently under development. Ultimately, we must all continue to strive to meet the challenge of our Mission Statement which states that OMEA “believes all students should have equal access to high quality music instruction delivered by licensed music teachers through comprehensive school programs in general, instrumental, and choral music education.” OMEA is far more than an event hosting organization. Its challenge is to ensure that this mission statement becomes a reality. Every student in Ohio deserves our best efforts to provide them with access to a high-quality music education. We must embrace this mission statement and focus on this goal together. Together we are OMEA.
Jay Wardeska serves as the Executive Director of OMEA. He has served OMEA in a variety of leadership roles including District President, All-State Ensembles Chair, All-State Task Force Chair, and Adjudicated Events Chair. He also served as an adjudicator for solo and ensemble, large group, and marching band. Currently a PhD Candidate at The Ohio State University, he holds degrees from Kent State University (M.M.) and the University of Mount Union (B.M.E.). Jay taught music in the State of Ohio for over 30 years and was named the 2013 National Band Director of the Year by the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) and the U.S. Army Band. Additional acknowledgements include membership in the NAfME U.S. Army All-American Band Directors Academy, Grammy Quarterfinalist for Music Educator of the Year, Medina County Arts Council Service to the Arts Award, the National Band Association Citation of Excellence, and the National Excellence in Teaching Award. He is also a Martha Holden Jennings Foundation Scholar.