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Celebrating Media Arts, Dance, Theatre and Music Associations

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Wisconsin's music, dance and theatre arts associations enhance the work educators and students do and provide great opportunities to showcase talent and hard work. March is Music in Our Schools Month, and there are lots of resources and tools available from the National Association for Music Education website. In the March 14 issue of ConnectEd, we will focus on the amazing work of visual and media arts educators and students in honor of Youth Arts Month, so be sure to keep an eye out for that! The following descriptions of associations' work are adapted from the associations' websites.

Music! Music! Music!

The Wisconsin School Music Association (WSMA) and the Wisconsin Music Educators Association (WMEA) both create and host events to support music educators and students alike.

The Wisconsin School Music Association Solo & Ensemble Festivals is the program for which WSMA is most well-known, reaching nearly 100,000 students and representing every county in the state. Through the Solo and Ensemble experience, students learn the value of preparing for a musical performance, advancing their musical skills and knowledge, and receiving feedback on a performance from a trained adjudicator. Those who perform the most challenging repertoire (Class A) at a WSMA district festival have the opportunity to earn a 1* (one-star) rating, which advances them to the State Solo and Ensemble Festivals. State festivals are held over two weekends in late April/early May at 10 college & university campuses around Wisconsin.

Based on early projections for 2023, it is anticipated that 24,320 solos, 7,296 ensembles, and 473 concert festivals will be registered this year! Festivals would not be possible without the critical work done by host school festival managers, WSMA adjudicators, and most importantly, the work of over 2,000 music educators who both encourage and prepare our students for this opportunity. 

Each year, Wisconsin Music Educators Association (WMEA) sponsors school music group performances in the Wisconsin State Capitol Rotunda during March. The concerts celebrate National Association for Music Education (NAfME) Music In Our Schools Month® (MIOSM®) and offer groups an opportunity to perform in our beautiful Wisconsin landmark. Each year, Wisconsin hosts one of the most well-attended events of this kind in the nation. To learn more about dates and ensembles performing this year, visit WMEA's website.

Theatre! Drama!

The Wisconsin Interscholastic Speech and Dramatic Arts Association (WISDAA) provides an inclusive platform that welcomes all middle and high school students to enhance and refine communication skills, to foster creativity, and to share perspectives. The WISDAA envisions a future where all students have access to participate in speech, debate, theatre, and film contests in a safe and supportive environment to express their authentic selves and to grow from constructive feedback.

Wisconsin students have been active in five programs offered by WISDAA.

  • Theatre: The one-act play festival series runs from October through November, with 70-80 schools participating annually with shows of up to 40 minutes. The WISDAA partners with the Alliance of Wisconsin Theatre Education and Wisconsin Thespians to organize a State Festival for about 1,800 middle and high school students from 40-50 schools to actively participate in play performances, hands-on workshops, and showcase presentations.
  • Debate: The debate season runs from mid-September through mid-December. The WISDAA is currently working to revitalize debate in Wisconsin, engaging schools from parts of the state that traditionally have not participated, using the accessible Congressional, Public Forum and Lincoln-Douglas formats. Debate is one of the best ways to teach critical thinking, research skills, and constructive approaches to conflict resolution. It also meets all core standards in English language arts.
  • High School Speech: From February through mid-April, about 6,000 students participate in the speech festival series. Of that number, approximately 4,500 students from 340+ schools, participate in 16 different categories — ranging from original speeches to performance of literature — at the State Speech Festival, held on the UW-Madison campus in April. WISDAA facilitates speech adjudication training and certification, required at all official WISDAA festivals.
  • Middle Level Speech: The Middle Level Division thrives with about 3,000 students participating in two levels of festivals. Students choose from an array of 14 speech categories, which are a combination of individual and group events. Constructive evaluation in a safe atmosphere empowers pre-adolescent students to gain confidence in the important life skill of oral interpretation.
  • Film: The WISDAA’s film festival aligns with counterpart activities associations around the country offering interscholastic contests/conventions in this digital medium. Through visual storytelling, students can express their communication skills. Using an online format until bringing students, educators, and artists together from across the state to celebrate their work is easier, and promotes accessibility and widens the reach of this program.

Dance! Dance! Dance!

In 1966, the Wisconsin Dance Council was established at the Conference on International Understanding Through Dance at the UW-Stevens Point for the purpose of promoting the appreciation of all types of dance as an art form and as a means of cultural expression. Its members are dance educators, studio teachers, performers, writers, dance-related organizations and individuals throughout Wisconsin who enjoy dance and want to support it.

The Wisconsin Dance Council hosts an annual state dance conference, local workshops, and advocates for dance education throughout the state. Members of this organization have assisted with the creation of the Wisconsin Academic Standard for Dance.

This item was submitted by Chris Gleason, Arts and Creativity Consultant at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.