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From the Executive Director

Jay Wardeska Executive Director
During this election year, I frequently hear the question “Are we better off than we were four years ago?” As the 2024 school year winds down, it is a good time to reflect on what life was like for our schools only four short years ago. In 2020, many of us were navigating online learning. Our music classrooms and auditoriums were silent, and many of our students were deprived of the privilege of walking at their high school graduation. We did not think music education would survive. However, our profession adapted, persevered, and for the most part, we are back from the precipice.
In 2024, the Ohio music education community has much to celebrate. We have come through the pandemic as a profession. We have revived curricular programming, brought live music back to our classrooms and auditoriums, and brought some new tools with us from the struggle. OMEA is thriving, and membership is growing. We have also learned that if we are going to continue to flourish, we must continue to adapt. We all must embrace the goal of providing access to a quality music education for every child. To achieve this goal, we must adapt to a new educational environment and think beyond the traditions that we have found so comfortable. We have proven our ability to adapt in the worst of times, and I believe that we can put that skill to use to reach more students.

Our Mission

The OMEA Mission statement reads as follows: “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 advocates for: comprehensive school programs in general instrumental and choral music education; state and national music standards, with assessment to ensure that students meet high academic expectations; licensed teachers, adequate instructional time, and appropriate facilities and materials for music programs.”
I begin each week reading this mission statement and grappling with the words “all students,” “equal access,” “high quality,” “licensed,” and “comprehensive.” We all must focus on this mission and ensure that these words are realized as soon as possible.

OMEA 101: Part One

OMEA is a member organization that pursues the above mission statement by serving its teacher members. The responsibility for OMEA policy is vested in the active members who are represented by an elected state board. Each March, elections are held for members to choose the leaders who will represent them. Voting members of the state board include the members of the Board of Trustees (President, President-Elect, Immediate Past President, Secretary, Treasurer, and Editor of TRIAD), the five region chairs, the seventeen district presidents, and the OCMEA president. The state board convenes three times a year to consider and act upon proposed policies and policy changes.
The OMEA staff currently consists of an Executive Director, Director of Adjudications, Director of AE Awards and Materials, Director of Business and Trade Shows, Director of Professional Development, Director of Technology, and a Membership Coordinator. The members of the staff do not make policy but are responsible for the day-to-day and fiscal operations of the organization, member services, and developing future initiatives as guided by OMEA policy.
The membership is responsible for enacting policy. This requires communication with the elected leadership. Each member is represented by a region chair and district president from the area in which they teach, and the board of trustees. Direct communication is the most effective. I encourage you to reach out to your representatives with suggestions you have, issues you face, and proposed policies. Social media is not the most effective mechanism for this type of communication as there is no guarantee that your representatives will see you post. I encourage you to visit the OMEA website and send an email directly to your officers. They want to hear from you!

Technology Update

As our teachers celebrate the culmination of another school year in May, we will also mark the one-year anniversary of the launch of the new OMEA website and membership management system. Throughout this past year, the phrase “building the airplane while it is in the air” has never felt more appropriate. We consistently confronted the challenge of our association's unique needs, necessitating detailed communication and explanation with our programmers, who lack a background in music education. The magnitude of tasks such as scheduling thousands of performers, coordinating their repertoire, and assigning them to venues is a highly complex undertaking. I extend my heartfelt gratitude to Nicholas Turon, Director of Technology, for serving as the conduit and shepherd for our programmer communication and workflow throughout this process. His resourcefulness in devising numerous "stop-gap" solutions to ensure we met our operational goals has been invaluable.
In this first year of transition, our primary aim was to fulfill the fundamental service needs of our members. While we succeeded in this endeavor, it came with significant challenges for our staff, elected leaders, and particularly our numerous adjudicated event site chairs. Among our achievements were the establishment of a new registration system for adjudicated events, fully online PDC registration, and the implementation of online payment capabilities through our website. Behind the scenes, we made several adjustments to improve operational management and financial procedures. Moving forward, we have enlisted specialized third-party providers to further enhance our services and streamline our processes.
In the upcoming year, our primary focus will be enhancing the user experience. We are committed to implementing a website design that is intuitive and offers swift access to essential information. To that end, we will strive to introduce more automation, bolster user support, and create intuitive interfaces for the varied functions the website serves. This encompasses event registration, hosting processes, and functionality crucial for our membership, staff, volunteers, and elected leaders. Ultimately, we aim for the website to serve as a comprehensive "one-stop-shop" for all our OMEA member needs. Our target is to realize these improvements by May 2025.
Like a seasoned performer, our work will continually evolve as new functions emerge, fresh needs arise, and technology advances. Nonetheless, our aim is for the website and management system to embody our overall vision and facilitate our ongoing growth by 2026.

Acknowledgements and Accolades

Congratulations to all new elected officials who will take office on July 1. Special welcome to our new State President-Elect, Beth Ann Hepburn, and new State Treasurer, Tim Hoagland. I look forward to working closely with them.

I want to extend my personal thanks to Brandon DuVall who is completing his term as State Treasurer. Brandon will continue to support OMEA’s efforts as a representative to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Music Committee. My heartfelt gratitude to Ann Usher whose tireless leadership led OMEA through some challenging and uncharted waters during her presidency. Ann served as president during the pandemic. Her positive and steady approach was a main ingredient in the organization’s successful navigation of the shutdown. She also chaired the search for a new executive director. Ann continues to be an exemplar of leadership and dedication for which we can all be grateful.

OMEA’s hard working team of staff has leveraged their dedication and passion for music education and OMEA into a well-oiled machine. There is no question that the number of transitions undertaken this year was an exceptional lift, but the staff handled the challenges with grace and perseverance. We all should be grateful to Mark Hensler, Director of Professional Development; Dane Newlove, Director of AE Awards and Materials; Bill Thomas, Director of Adjudications; Nicholas Turon, Director of Technology; and Bill Wittman, Director of Business and Tradeshows. Special thanks also to Joe Galvin who serves OMEA as Membership Coordinator. Joe has taken on several additional tasks this year to help us through the transition.

In closing, I am grateful for our many hard-working volunteers and our dedicated leaders. Our site chairs deserve the utmost of gratitude and appreciation for their efforts this year. In addition to taking on the responsibility that comes with providing a site and managing the event, they had the added burden of weathering the challenges of our transition as well. I am most grateful for the dedication of our members who answered the call of music education and share their passion with the students of Ohio. Together We Are OMEA!
Jay Wardeska serves as the Executive Director of OMEA and the Ohio Foundation for Music Education (OFME). 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. He is currently the Music Director of the Brass Band of the Western Reserve and a member of the Buckeye Brass Quintet.