Saturday, 01 June 2019 23:01

WVMEA is Awarded CMA Advocacy Grant

Exciting News!! WVMEA has been awarded another CMA Advocacy Grant! WVMEA is 1 of only 5 in the country to receive the State Music Education Association Advocacy Grant! Thanks to the CMA Foundation, the West Virginia Music Educators Association will be putting our efforts into creating a state advocacy force (more info on that coming soon). The CMA Foundation is helping to advance music education and give back to teachers, students, and organizations across the country. We are truly grateful for their support!

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Hello, I am Genesis Mihalko, one of two collegiate members of NAfME that WVMEA sent to the “Collegiate Advocacy Summit” in Washington D.C. this June to represent music education for the state of West Virginia. When being asked to reflect on this experience, at first it was hard to put into words how this event struck me and affected me; however, my most common response has been “it was life changing”. “It was life changing” is a very broad statement, but I don’t believe there are any better words to express how this event made me feel, and how it will gear me to look at situations, differently, moving forward.

While being present at the event, it was significant to me to hear a culmination of Hill Day stories from college students all across the nation as well as leaders of different states and the nation. These stories were all so personal, some sentimental and some not, but the passion behind each and every one of them was breathtaking. For me, I have always wanted to be a music educator, and I’ve always had this driving force of passion for it, and it was enlightening to be surrounded by people with passion that matched mine.

Participating in Hill Day, especially for the state of West Virginia, who on a state level, is struggling, in some regards, with education was very eye-opening. As we met with each representative, it was shocking to me how they all cared and advocated for the arts because they saw the importance of them. This surprised me because not all states have that mutual agreement when it comes to the arts. Having that, we were able to sit back and talk just straight education, and that conversation sparked that idea of we are fighting for much more than music education in the state of West Virginia. We are advocating for the same well-rounded education that students in other states are getting, which includes the arts. This drove me to want to fight the good fight for the state of West Virginia even more, and this was crucial for me because I feel more passionate about West Virginia education than that of Pennsylvania, where I am technically from. I must preface, I want all education, everywhere, to be equal and equitable to all, but right now, West Virginia needs more support.

Overall, as I sit back to think about this experience, all I know is I want to go and participate in hill day over and over again. Our voice matters, and my experience on the hill emphasized that to me all the more, and it opened my eyes to a new passion of mine, or a passion I had but it was hidden: advocacy. I would like to thank WVMEA for sending me as one of their two representatives. I will never forget my time on the hill, and that experience will drive me to continue to advocate for what’s just: a well-rounded education.

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I have always liked country music. Some of my first memories of singing harmonies are centered around baking cookies in my Nana’s kitchen with the Oak Ridge Boys and the Judds playing in the background. So when my husband (who’s also a music educator) and I had the chance to see what the CMA Fest was all about, I was all in. I was expecting four days of performances by various artists, opportunities to visit vendors, and eating as much great barbecue as possible. What I wasn’t expecting was to be impacted so greatly as a music educator.

Andi Hasley at CMA Fest

As you may know, WVMEA was a recipient of the 2019 CMA Foundation Advocacy Grant. Our organization used this money to host our very first “Hill Day” in Charleston, WV the day before our 2019 In-service Conference. It is through that connection that I was afforded the opportunity to attend CMA fest. After all, this event is a big part of the reason those grant monies even exist.

For starters, a brief explanation of what CMA Fest actually is. The Ultimate Country Music Fan Experience™ began in 1972 as Fan Fair®, which drew 5,000 fans to Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium. Now in its 48th year, the legendary CMA Fest has become the city’s signature Country Music event. CMA Fest is filmed for an ABC Television Network special. This is the 16th consecutive year the event has been filmed for a network television special, a feat no other music festival has achieved. Since 2006, a portion of proceeds from CMA Fest has been given to music education initiatives supporting students K-12 across the U.S. through the CMA Foundation. The performing artists donate their time during the weekend. (Source:

Andi Hasley at CMA Fest 2019

Upon arriving in Nashville, TN the energy was palpable. More than 50,000 people showed up for this four-day event. Despite the crowds, it was well-organized and security was similar to that of a college or NFL football game and the lines moved quickly. Each day’s events began at 10:00am, though we did have a few rain delays. Overall, the days are filled with about 16 hours of live musical performances - everything from up-and-coming artists at the “Break-out” stage to artists that have been performing for decades at the “Forever Country” stage. We were able to catch about 50 different performers throughout the four days. We first visited the Riverfront Stage, where we saw former WV music student Donnie Marple (drummer for Lee Brice) perform. Following this performance, we headed down Broadway and Whiskey Row, visiting vendors along the way, and made our way to Music City Center. This is a large convention center and was filled with more vendors. Everything from recording studio booths hosting artist meet and greets, to local merchants and food vendors were available. That evening we headed to Nissan Stadium for the first of four nights of “headliners.” Each night’s concert began at 7:30pm and usually wrapped up shortly before 1:00am. Additionally, we attended a screening of portions of the Ken Burns documentary “Country Music,” which will air on PBS on September 15th at 8:00pm. WV artist Kathy Mattea was a significant contributor to this project. You can find more info here:

Former WV music student Donnie Marple

The overriding theme of CMA Fest is Music Education. Everything from photo backdrops to decorated pianos were all over downtown Nashville, all of which featured the slogan “It starts with M.E.” (music education). All of the concerts featured videos about music teachers’ classrooms or ensembles, emphasizing the importance of music education. It was amazing to watch the crowd react to these videos. In fact, on the last night of concerts at Nissan, the group of people with whom we had been sitting stood up and clapped for us after learning we were music educators. (They might have figured it out when I started crying after Page Jackson Elementary choir sang for 50,000 people.) Every performer that we saw humbly thanked the audience for being in attendance and for supporting country music and music education. Many of the performers seemed genuinely shocked that people were singing along with their music. And remember, NONE of the performers received compensation for their participation in this festival. They all give their time to the CMA Foundation.

CMA Fest 2019

It's not unknown that West Virginia teachers have taken a beating the last two years by our state politicians. It’s been tough. Being at this festival for four days reminded me that people really DO value music education. I think this text from our Air BnB owner says it all. “Yes, keep teaching music. I learned everything I needed to know about myself on an athletic field but I learned how to succeed in diverse groups by playing music in band. A band is a life group project way better than other academics. Music makes the world go ‘round.” (FYI - He is an orthopedic surgeon and a football coach.)

If you ever get the chance to attend this festival, do it. Not only is it four full days of live music (there’s nothing better) but the emphasis is on music education. And, the barbecue food trucks are out of this world.

In appreciation,
Andi Hasley, WVMEA President

For more information about CMA Fest, visit their website at

You can catch the Three-Hour Primetime Concert Special on Sunday, August 4 at 8pm on the ABC Television Network.

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