This year, the NFHS performing arts conference celebrates its 20th year as a meeting of speech, debate, theatre and music administrators. The conference was originally designed as two separate meetings with speech, debate and theatre in August, and the music meeting in November. As more states began to consolidate their performing arts administrators into one position, the NFHS performing arts conference met the demands of the membership and combined the two meetings into one meeting in mid-September.
In 1999, the topics ranged from “Using the Internet in Forensics” to “Coach Training” and “Copyright Issues.” Over the years, topics like these have flowed through various conversations and returned as topics. Many initiatives have come to fruition after beginning as discussion topics at the NFHS Performing Arts Conference.
For example, both copyright and adjudicator trainings have been topics of concern by the membership at this conference for several years. Now, the NFHS has robust professional development courses that assist states in educating their members on copyright issues, and training adjudicators to reach a national standard in adjudicator education.
Like all NFHS meetings, one of the most valuable components is the networking and sharing of ideas that occur throughout the meeting. As an example, in 2011, Craig Ihnen of the Iowa High School Speech Association presented on a speech event of short film. This presentation spawned several states to begin film festivals at the high school level. Several states were able to increase the benefits offered to member schools and improve the student experience.
The NFHS Performing Arts Conference began hosting outside experts on topics such as “Large Event Safety,” “Emergency Action Plans” and “Protests at Events.” These were important topics to assist schools in keeping student participants and spectators safe at events that can often have tens of thousands of spectators.
In addition, past conferences have also attempted to be more inclusive of all students with topics such as “Including All Students, How to Include Students with Special Needs,” “How to Succeed in a Small State Environment” and “Jumpstart Theatre.”
As we look ahead to future NFHS Performing Arts Conferences, there will be many new administrators and expanding performing arts activities. We have expanded combined topics that affect music and speech activities and added a keynote speaker. The attendance continues to increase at this conference which only increases its value. We invite all performing arts administrators at the state, regional and district levels to join us at the 2019 NFHS Performing Arts Conference.
This year’s NFHS Performing Arts Conference will be held September 16-18 at the Chicago Oak Brook Marriott. For more information about the conference, click here. The conference is free to attend.
Steffen Parker, a member of the High School Today Publications Committee, is a music educator, computer geek and instructional support specialist from Vermont, where he organizes music festivals and supports other states with online services for their events.