November 22, 2017
    Executive director departs after put on administrative leave

    Differing accounts of what happened at diversity discussion


    Michael Blakeslee is now CEO of the National Association for Music Education following the departure of Michael Butera this week. 

    A message on the NAfME website announced the change after Butera had been placed on administrative leave. “After a thorough review process, [NAfME] and Michael Butera have agreed that he will not be returning to the association. We wish him well and thank him for his service to our purpose and mission,” the message reads.

    Butera was placed on leave following a table discussion in which he took part on April 26 at the National Endowment for the Arts. The discussion was on diversity in the arts. In a May 4 blog post by table mate and Alternate ROOTS operations director Keryl McCord, she described remarks that she said Butera made about African Americans and Latinos that she found troubling. 

    “If Mr. Butera had not left the room after making his remarks, this written response would not be necessary. But he did leave the room, depriving me and everyone else at the table a chance to respond, to try to engage in a dialog. What was said was said publicly, and was so deeply disturbing and has remained with me since our meeting, that I could not, not respond,” her post reads.

    Butera countered McCord’s account in a May 6 post on the NAfME Facebook page: “A recently posted blog entry referring to a meeting on diversity in the arts, which I attended on April 26th at the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), included the attribution of comments to me of a racial and discriminatory nature. I want to make clear, unequivocally, that the reporting of these comments was a deeply inaccurate portrayal of the dialogue which took place that day. 

    “I also mentioned that the field of music educators, much like the general population of educators, is skewed toward white individuals. We have had ongoing and rich discussions in our association community about how best to address this issue, but have not yet been able to actualize a solution. This is not for lack of trying, but simply because of the enormous complexity of the issue. I am personally passionate about increasing the size and scope of the music education “tent,” and want nothing more than to grow the participation in our field of individuals from all different backgrounds.

    At least one other person who was at the table supports McCord’s version

    On May 10, Butera was put on leave, which was announced on the NAfME website:

    “Last week, we were made aware of a situation involving remarks made by NAfME’s CEO, Michael Butera. We take this issue very seriously and, understandably, have heard from many in our community in recent days. Diversity, inclusion and equity in music and the arts are at the core of what we do at NAfME and we are committed to taking the appropriate actions to ensure that remains true. To that end, Mr. Butera has been placed on administrative leave while we conduct an objective investigation, which is nearing conclusion, into the matter. We have reached out to participants in last week’s discussion, including Keryl McCord of Alternate ROOTS, to fully understand what happened and assess the situation. We appreciate the dialogue that has taken place over the course of the last week and look forward to continuing this important conversation.”

    By the afternoon of May 11, the association announced his departure and Blakeslee’s appointment as CEO. 

    Blakeslee has worked at NAfME for more than 30 years. He has served as editor of the award-winning Music Educators Journal and of Teaching Music magazine, and many NAfME publications. He has directed the development of music education initiatives and innovative online tools for music education. In 1994, he was editor of the National Standards for Arts Education: What Every Young American Should Know and Be Able to Do in the Arts. In 2010, he managed the process that resulted in the 21st Century Arts Skills Map, published by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. And he served on the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards leadership team in the development of the 2014 Core Arts Standards.

    He has taught at institutions in the U.S. and abroad, notably at Northern Virginia Community College, Virginia Commonwealth University, the Universidad de Los Andes, and the Universidad Nacional Pedagógica de Colombia. 

    Association TRENDS