Amanda Morris | News Editor
Michael Wilder, Wheaton’s dean of the Conservatory, arts and communication, has recently been elected to a three-year term as associate chair of the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM). Wilder was elected at the NASM’s annual National Conference, which took place in Florida during the week before Thanksgiving.
According to their website, the NASM, which was founded in 1924, is an organization of schools, conservatories and universities that establishes national standards for both undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as other credentials. The NASM includes schools from a variety of different backgrounds and approximately 644 accredited institutional members.
Wilder is no rookie to the NASM environment. He has served as an institutional representative for roughly 15 years, and a visiting evaluator for nearly 12 years. Wilder has been training evaluators for four years and he has been a member of the NASM Commission of Accredidation for five years. According to Wilder, the commission consists of 18 representatives that come from the pool of 644 institutions. When serving on the commission, each member can serve a three-year term and be re-elected to a second three-year term before finishing at a total of six possible years. In another year, Wilder would have been done with his second term. However, this election invited him to be associate chair of this commission, and he will hold this position for three years.
“It’s the hardest I work, I think probably all year. I spend a week with them in June and a week with them in November,” Wilder said. “There’s two weeks of work ... and then I do evaluation visits where you go to institutions … all told, I suppose … most years you end up giving three or four weeks a year to NASM.”
Like most accreditating agencies, the NASM relies entirely on volunteer time.
Wilder explained that he is motivated to serve these roles with the NASM because of the quality it can provide, as well as the encouragement that it can build. “One, I think the association improves the quality of music learning, performing and teaching, and I hope that my involvement is an encouragement to other people and schools so that you’re there to help them get better. So, between the two, I think it’s well worth the volunteering,” Wilder said. “The third real benefit, I think, is to Wheaton College, because I think you learn so much. … The last time the commission met, we processed over 350 university and college music programs. So we’re looking at a lot of programs, and you get a lot of really good ideas and perspective. … I think all of that aids Wheaton College.”
Wilder was elected by the full membership at the National Conference. “There’s a nominating committee, and they assemble a ballot, and then they circulate your biographical information, and then there’s an election at the national conference,” Wilder said. Wilder’s first appearance as associate chair will be at a conference in Chicago at the end of January.
Wilder noted his duties as associate chair of the NASM Commission will not dramatically change from the duties that he had as a regular member of the commission. As co-chair of the commission, Wilder will now serve as its facilitator. Additionally, Wilder will become a member of the executive committee, which includes members of the NASM such as the president, vice president, treasurer, chair and associate chair. This executive committee has additional meetings where they undertake the work of the association on behalf of the association.
Wilder highlighted that he finds one of the best aspects of working with the NASM is the chance to meet many people, all of whom are “formidable leaders,” who share a similar job. “You make some really good friends, and for that I’m really grateful, because all of these folks are so busy in their own lanes,” Wilder said.
Wilder also said that his time at NASM has benefitted him in his position at Wheaton.
“I think just being involved with the organization in the ways that we have been is beneficial to the school, but this will be another opportunity to gain insight and to have perspective that’s national and even international, as to music teaching and performing and what happens in graduate and undergraduate programs,” Wilder said.
Wilder noted that he is grateful for the chance to participate with the NASM, with the leadership that it provides in regard to music- and other arts-accrediting organizations. Wilder expressed that it is a “distinct honor” to represent Wheaton College in his work with the NASM. “To represent the school, and the Lord, for that matter, I think that’s a real privilege.”
When asked why Dr. Wilder’s newly elected position is significant to Wheaton College, Provost Stanton Jones wrote in an email, “Positions such as this that involve national leadership of professional organizations reflect the esteem of national leaders of the individual elected but also reflects respect for the program that person leads.” Jones stated that the NASM is Wheaton’s major national accreditor for all of its music-related programs. “Dr. Wilder’s leadership role with NASM will benefit students and faculty both by raising the visibility of the Wheaton Conservatory. Our entire institution benefits as a result,” Jones said.