*Links to Conference Presentations Below*
For the first time in its 21-year history, the annual NFHS Performing Arts Conference (PAC) was conducted online via teleconferencing September 14-18. Over the course of the five-day event, the conference saw viewership from more than 150 registrants representing 35 states and several national performing arts organizations.
The PAC was slated to be held face-to-face; however, survey results in mid-August reflected apprehension on the part of performing arts administrators and spurred the decision to adapt the material for streaming on the Zoom platform.
“We held out hope as long as we could for an in-person conference, but based on survey results and several conversations at director meetings, as well as with our NFHS executive staff, it became apparent an online conference was the appropriate choice,” said Dr. James Weaver, NFHS director of performing arts and sports.
Even with an abbreviated timeframe for setup, the NFHS performing arts department was able to secure two keynote speakers and 13 additional workshops for the conference, which was expanded from a three-day to a five-day structure. Spreading the content over five days and limiting each session to a one-hour window allowed for shorter daily agendas and helped reduce the possibility of viewers experiencing any trademark “Zoom fatigue.”
At past conferences, sessions over the three days were traditionally sorted by activity to accommodate the schedules of those attending. Speech, debate and theatre workshops were typically staged for the first day and the morning of the second day, followed by a gradual transition into music-specific workshops on Day 3. With the added freedom afforded by the online setting, workshops and roundtables were coordinated to assess different topics for each activity genre each day.
“This year was unique with how people were able to hop in and out of different sessions based on their interests,” Weaver said. “And we were able to reach a much larger audience with the online format.”
In addition to NFHS Executive Director Dr. Karissa Niehoff, the conference featured Fran Kick as a keynote speaker. An author, educational consultant and professional speaker with experience in performing arts work at the state association level, Kick’s profile was tailor-made for his role at the PAC.
“Fran was a natural fit for us,” Weaver said. “He’s a terrific motivational speaker and he has an integral knowledge of what we do in performing arts and understands the importance of it. He’s been involved with several performing arts organizations as well, including Music For All and Drum Corps International, so he has a keen understanding of multiple facets of arts advocacy.”
Weaver said this year’s workshops were among some of the most timely and impressionable sessions the conference has offered, addressing topics such as how to run virtual performing arts events, youth protection policies, best practices for mediating rules disputes and the benefits of state music mentoring and advocacy programs.
While he was thrilled with the overall effectiveness and attendance of the first-ever online NFHS Performing Arts Conference, Weaver is optimistic about a return to an in-person conference next year, where he and other attendees will get the chance to partake in a time of fellowship long overdue.
“We really missed the professional development that occurs outside of the sessions,” he said. “Hosting the Performing Arts Conference online brought a lot of useful information to school district and state-level administrators and performing arts committee members, and we are very pleased by that, but one of the most important elements of the conference is the development of personal connections that come from networking after hours. We’d love to get that back next year.”
Links to Conference Presentations
Virtual Speech, Debate & Theatre Platforms: What to look for when choosing an online platform
Virtual Music Festivals
Youth Protection Policies: Protecting Our Students
State Music Mentoring and Advocacy Programs Make a Difference
What State Officials Need to Know to Run Virtual Speech, Debate & Theatre State Events: Panel Discussion
NFHS Online Music Adjudicator Training
Best Practices For Refereeing Rule Disputes, Protests, and Disqualifications
NFHS Performing Arts Update
Trigger Warnings, Trauma and Emotional Plans for Speech, Debate and Theatre Events
BMI – Music Licensing for Schools
High School: 2020-2021 License
What Have We Learned? Where Do We Go?
Nate Perry is coordinator of media relations at the National Federation of State High School Associations.