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Performing Arts Conference Returns In-Person with Record Numbers

By Kyle Mills on November 10, 2021 hst Print

The 22nd annual NFHS Performing Arts Conference (PAC) was conducted in an in-person format September 20-22 in Denver, Colorado after a one-year virtual hiatus. Over the course of the three-day event, a total of 82 representatives from 30 states and 15 national organizations were in attendance – an all-time record.

“It has been an invigorating experience watching the PAC nearly double in size,” said Dr. James Weaver, NFHS director of performing arts and sports. “This shows that the commitment to performing arts on behalf of the NFHS and the professional development provided is of great value to our member state associations.”

Keynote speaker Ron Minatrea delivered a powerful message to fine arts state administrators with a presentation focused on equipping leaders and their teams to become more effective, the importance of understanding the last 18 months, and the value of not running on empty.

“Ron understood the impact that the pandemic has had on all of us as leaders in our states. He knew the last 18 months have been more than challenging and he urged everyone to examine what was left in their ‘cups.’ Many of us had to admit there was not much,” said Jana Riggins, speech and debate director of the Texas University Interscholastic League and NFHS Speech, Debate, Theatre Committee chairperson.

“He shared ways to refill our cups through aligning who we are and our goals, examining our identity in order to develop an identity- based vision, and working to develop an exponential mindset,” Riggins continued. “Each time we engage others we multiply our impact and that adds to the refilling of our cup. And he reminded us that we must invest in resting and reflection, intentionally doing the things that bring life to us (pouring into our cup) because investments in ourselves affect our effectiveness and who we want to be. His message rejuvenated and empowered us all.”

In addition to Minatrea, attendees experienced 20 workshop sessions along with three roundtable discussion forums for a record-breaking total of 24 sessions. Speech, debate and theatre workshops were held on September 20-21 and were followed by a transition into the combined sessions before focusing on music on September 21-22.

“I have attended the NFHS PAC for seven years and this year was the best,” remarked Craig Manteuffel, NFHS Music Committee chairperson and assistant executive director of the Kansas State High School Activities Association. “This year’s presentations were outstanding. As educators we benefit significantly by learning from performing arts experts from across the United States. Personally, I enjoy the roundtable discussion forums. Attendees range from state high school association administrators, MEA administrators, SDT administrators, along with performing arts business professionals, which provide a wealth of networking opportunities. The diverse topics are relevant and in many cases we gain excellent suggestions from other state leaders so we can provide better opportunities for our own students, directors and coaches.”

Weaver said this year’s workshops especially were among some of the most timely sessions the conference has ever offered, addressing topics such as Digital Publications and Performance, Aerosol Research and Working With State Government Agencies while focusing on the recruitment, retention of students along with the personal health and safety of students, educators and administrators.

While the 2020 PAC was able to take place in an online format, Weaver was thrilled about the return to an in-person conference this year, where he and other attendees got a chance to partake in a time of long overdue fellowship.

“Hosting the Performing Arts Conference in person brought us back together as a performing arts community and although we wore masks, we could tell people were smiling and excited to be together again,” concluded Weaver.