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Updates from the AMTA Board of Directors

December 19, 2019 10:26 AM

 Updates from the AMTA Board of Directors

Thank you to all of the members who have reached out with questions, comments, and concerns over the past few weeks. As we approach the end of service for many on the board, we wanted to take the opportunity to address some of the frequently asked questions we have received. Please be aware that we do not present these inquiries in order of importance, as they are all important.

Government Relations and State Advocacy Efforts

During the conference, the former executive director reported a plan to shift the focus of the state recognition plan previously developed jointly by AMTA and CBMT by focusing on just ten states in the coming year. After reviewing these ideas and discussion with Judy Simpson and the government relations team, as well as with members most closely engaged in state advocacy efforts, we decided not to pursue this idea. Instead, we will maintain the original focus as detailed in the joint AMTA/CBMT state recognition operational plan (

Through our membership surveys, we have learned that government relations and state advocacy efforts are one of the top priorities for music therapists. We fully support our government relations team and the countless volunteer hours donated by our members as we strive for state recognition for music therapists. We will rely on their assessment of the work being completed to inform the process moving forward.

Executive Director Search

Following the retirement announcement of our long-term executive director, Dr Andrea Farbman, the executive board worked to outline a process which would lead the organization to the selection of our next executive director. Part of that process involved the establishment of the search committee, engagement of an executive search firm with experience in the

non-profit sector, and a survey of music therapists to determine the qualities and focus of the next ED. Throughout the past year, we have learned more about the type of ED who will be best equipped to lead our organization into the next decade. We have heard from many members who have expressed the need for our organization to undertake a different approach when selecting our next ED. We recognize that additional work must occur to engage members’ voices as they constitute vital stakeholders in this process. While we have not yet determined how the search process will proceed, we anticipate that this process will take time to ensure that we proceed in a manner which would meet all stakeholder needs.

In the interim, AMTA staff members have been continuing to support our organization by making sure that day-to-day operations are running smoothly. AMTA treasurer Edward Kahler has resumed interim financial oversight and management to ensure that AMTA continues to operate from a place of financial stability. Questions that will need to be addressed in the new year include the possible engagement of a professional interim executive, the composition of a new search committee, the development of a new position profile, and the manner in which the search will be conducted. Member feedback is a vital component of this process and we continue to encourage members to share their thoughts regarding the past year’s process, as well as ideas for moving forward.

2020 AMTA National Conference

As has been shared with the membership, the 2020 AMTA National Conference is scheduled to be held in Atlantic City, NJ, from November 19-22, 2020. We have received questions and concerns from our members about the site of this conference. The concerns that were brought to our attention are very serious and we are grateful to the members who sent letters. The following statement was released by the Board of Directors on December 13, 2019 regarding the 2020 National Conference:

“Three years ago, in an effort to bring the national conference to the Mid-Atlantic Region, Atlantic City was chosen as the site for the 2020 national conference. We acknowledge, hear, and value the concerns about the prevalence of human trafficking in Atlantic City, and the complicity of casino hotels. AMTA stands against human trafficking, supports those who have been victims of human trafficking, and supports music therapists and other professionals offering a way out, and support, for human trafficking victims across the United States.

We reviewed the financial obligations within the contract and obtained more information from the hotel about their policies to combat human trafficking. The decision was made not to move the 2020 conference. We will engage in on-site advocacy, training, and fundraising for local programs and music therapy services supporting victims of human trafficking. We hope to increase awareness and empower music therapists in their work with and advocacy for human trafficking victims. We will share specific plans with you over the next couple of months as those plans are developed. We welcome suggestions from membership regarding these plans. Please send suggestions to Vice President Elect, Wendy Woolsey, at

There are systemic changes that need to be made in our site selection process to increase the awareness of the search company and future boards during the vetting and site approval process. We have already begun to put systems in place to help make better informed decisions moving forward.

We appreciate and value your communication and commitment to the music therapy profession and those we serve. We are fortunate to serve this passionate, caring community.”

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

The AMTA Board of Directors recognizes the vital work that must occur to transform our current culture to one that is more inclusive of all members. On Tuesday, December 10, 2019, the Board of Directors passed the following motion:

“Resolve, that the incoming Board of Directors engage the services of a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) consultant to: (a) improve leadership reflexivity, transparency, communication, and language used regarding DEI; (b) eliminate the structural systems within AMTA that prevent engagement of members; (c) create a shared governance community that empowers all members to contribute to issues that impact the association, clients, students, and the profession; and (d) assist with recruiting candidates for association service.”

The board recognizes that this individual must be appropriately vetted to ensure that the services being provided will match the depth of the work that needs to occur. We welcome suggestions for this consultant from members. Please send your suggestions to incoming

AMTA President, Deborah Williams ( and incoming President-Elect Lori Gooding (

The engagement of a consultant is the first of many steps that must be taken. The feedback we have received on this issue has been vital. Recommendations given have included the   inclusion of a Diversity Officer (voting member) on the Board of Directors, seeking varied legal counsel when needed, examining the ways in which our actions need to change to communicate inclusion and accessibility, and ongoing training. We are considering each of those suggestions, and anticipate the first step to be retaining a consultant.

Safe Spaces

Throughout the past year, a messy and confusing process occurred in response to requests from our members to provide safe, closed spaces during our national conference. Many factors contributed to the poor communication, confusion, and harm to members that occurred as a result of frequent changes to these spaces. The responsibility for such communication and  harm rests on the Board of Directors.

On Sunday, November 24, 2019, the Board of Directors passed the following motion: “Resolve, that the incoming president appoint a Safe Spaces Technical Advisory Group to develop procedures for offering safe spaces within AMTA, that includes a representative from each region that is appointed by the regions and chaired by a board appointed member of the DEI committee and in consultation with a diversity specialist (neutral person) to help with the discussions.”

In order to begin the process of establishing the technical advisory group, the board of directors passed the following motion on December 17, 2019:

“Resolve, that the board of directors will:

  1. Put out RFPs for a DEI consultant no later than January 31st 2020 with one of the tasks to consult with the safe spaces technical advisory group.
  2. Send a request to the regional presidents for a representative to the safe spaces technical advisory group no later than January 31st.
  3. Communicate to the membership, before the 2020 call for papers is posted, the intention to offer spaces and that coordination with the advisory group will be taking place.
  4. Appoint a liaison to help facilitate communication between the DEI consultant and the board of directors, staff and membership, who is not a member of the board of directors, by January 31st.”

We have heard from our members that a variety of different spaces are needed, including the opportunity for closed networking meetings, as well as closed educational sessions. All suggestions and communication received on this topic to-date will be shared with the Safe Spaces Technical Advisory Group once it is established by incoming president Deborah Williams. The group will work closely with incoming Vice President Wendy Woolsey concerning recommendations for the 2020 national conference. As the 2020 call for papers will open by the end of January 2020, we anticipate that this will be an evolving process.

Communication and Transparency

As a board, we are working to change our processes and communication methods to engage  in a partnership with members. We recognize that the current methods of communication have not always benefited our membership. Information is often difficult to find or lacks the specificity needed for members to be active and engaged. While a comprehensive plan will need to be developed to upgrade the website, smaller and more immediate changes can be made in the coming year. We hope to create an easier path to communicate with the Board of Directors and are exploring ways to ease that communication access point. This might include being able to access email addresses on the website with greater ease, virtual town hall meetings, or other in-person opportunities during conferences. Clear and transparent communication is vital to the success of our organization and it is clear that improvements are necessary.


The above issues are critical for our Association to address. We value the input of our membership as this dialogue is important to us. We will continue to provide opportunities for members to share their perspectives. In addition, please feel free to reach out to us with comments and questions.

Additional Highlights can be found here.

Most sincerely,

The 2018-2019 AMTA Board of Directors

  • President: Amber Weldon-Stephens
  • President-Elect: Deborah Williams
  • Immediate Past President: Jennifer Geiger
  • Vice President: Kristen O’Grady
  • Vice President-Elect: Wendy Woolsey
  • Treasurer: Edward Kahler
  • Historian/Parliamentarian: Bryan Hunter
  • Speaker of the Assembly: Angie Snell
  • Assistant Speaker of the Assembly: Michael Silverman
  • Assembly Delegate Representative: Lori Gooding
  • Assembly Delegate Representative: Gary Verhagen
  • Council Coordinator for Association Services: Michele Forinash
  • Council Coordinator for Professional Practice: Natalie Generally Kirk
  • Council Coordinator for Education and Clinical Training: Eric Waldon ewaldon@PACIFIC.EDU
  • Regional Presidents Representative: Andrea Dalton