When preparing to attend your first music teacher conference you may be going through quite a few emotions, from feeling excited, intrigued and even overwhelmed! Music teacher conferences are essential in helping you grow as a music teacher, they introduce new techniques or reexamine old tried and true techniques, conference presenters introduce new music that will inspire your students and invigorate your teaching and also conferences are a great place to meet other teachers.
As I am gearing up to attend some summer music teacher conferences, I thought it would be great to write a blog post that offers some tips and suggestions that will help you prepare to attend your first music teacher conference.
Research and Prepare Early! So first you must plan and schedule the conferences that you want to attend. You may find out about these conferences through your music teacher memberships at MTNA.org, NATS.org, your local piano teachers’ forum, and even your local music store may even send out a newsletter. One additional way that you can find out about upcoming conferences especially if you like to attend in your state and surrounding states, you can look on the website of many of music publishers. Check out website:
    1. FJHMusic.com: https://www.fjhmusic.com/2018workshop.htm
    2. PianoAdventures.com: https://pianoadventures.com/events/
    3. Alfred.com: https://www.alfred.com/events/
These are just a few of the website that I like to look up music teacher conferences on. Through looking up the conference you will see what the presenter will discuss and you can begin doing your own research so that you can prepare your questions for the presenter. Make sure that you plan to bring something to take adequate notes! I will discuss that more in a later point.  
Arrange your teaching schedule to accommodate your attendance. As a business owner you have to make room for growth and inspiration as well as awareness toward what you need to do to take action toward that growth. I used to be so dedicated to my music studio, that I was tied to it. I could never leave because I would think about all of those students who would need make up lessons or their schedule rearranged. I finally realized that’s not helping me to grow. So no matter if you have to reschedule their lessons, get an assistant teacher, or subtract that tuition from your income make a way for you to attend. No excuses.  
Bring Money!- Most times the conferences given at these events are free and if you know anything about attending conferences the registration fees/ticket prices alone can be quite expensive. So this often a nice benefit to attend some of the smaller conferences, you get the chance to meet the composers behind a lot of the lesson books that you use to teach your students. As they are taking out their free time to introduce and promote their new collections, it’s very helpful for you to go ahead and make purchases that day. Also a lot of the music stores that host the event additionally give discounts for that day. So bring money, debit card or whatever you use when shopping and be prepared to purchase some books!
Be Prepared to take notes, Taking notes at the conference is essential to the information that you retain from the conference. Some presenters have handouts however if they don’t you will need something to retain the information. What works for me is to have ONE designated notebook that I continuously use at all my conferences so that I can keep all the notes in there. It’s very helpful to look back on those notes and be re-inspired all over again.
Be Social, Networking with other teachers and the presenter is a great way to make some new connections for new opportunities. Because most of the conferences are held in your state and a lot of the music teachers in your area attend, the first thought could be a feeling of not wanting to network because of competition but that shouldn’t stop you. I am a person that likes to think in abundance and that there’s enough for everyone who wants what they want. So release that thought and get out there and speak to the other music teachers. Besides it’s nice to have someone to discuss business concepts with or maybe you might make a good friend who will travel with you to attend other conferences. Connecting with the presenter is fun too! When you meet them make sure to have your questions or comments clear and concise, don’t be rude or comment on anything too personal. If you feel the need to mention something you noticed in their lesson book that would be a great benefit refrain, instead see if there’s a way to contact them privately. A conference is not the place for that sort of confrontation. Also respect that the presenter may be tired from speaking for so long during the entire conference, allow them their own personal recovery time and space as well.
What to wear, dress casual and business friendly. I have become quite comfortable in business attire so it’s not hard for me to dress that way on most of my teaching days. However, most music teacher conferences are very casual-I have seen some teachers there with jeans on. I would recommend dressing in a style that is comfortable to you and also allows you to feel confident in the image that you would like to project. If you want to be taken serious and you are young, I would strive to dress in a manner that allows others to respect me instead of overlook me-i.e. No jeans and t-shirts for me!
Bring your own food if necessary. Conferences are long three to four hours, and a lot of times the refreshments they have are just that, Refreshments. So they often have things similar to what a hotel has, such as bagels, snacks, coffee and water. So it’s best to eat a healthy breakfast, bring fruit or a protein bar and water, these food items will give you the energy you need to stay alert and focused during the entire conference. Be prepared if the conference goes past lunch time, if they provide a lunch break and no lunch or if they end at lunch time, search online for places nearby that you can get a good and healthy lunch and possibly connect with the other music teachers.
Overall be open minded to learning and don’t allow yourself to be held back because of your own insecurities. Being at a music conference is not the same as being in music school, when it was maybe very competitive and people were trying to sum you up based on your best qualities. It’s nothing like that at all. Most people are very welcoming and friendly and we all realize that we are all in this together, striving to make music education better and build our music studios as best as we can!