Diversity Comments Lead to NAfME Executive Changes


Michael Butera

The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) has named Michael Blakeslee as their new CEO and Executive Director after parting ways with Michael Butera.

Butera, the former CEO and Executive Director, came under fire for his alleged comments on diversity at an April 26 meeting of national arts organization leaders held by the National Endowment for the Arts. Keryl McCord, who attended the meeting representing arts organization Alternative ROOTS, described the incident on their blog:

Mr. Butera told us that his board was all white and that he couldn’t diversify his board because they aren’t appointed but, rather, they are elected by the membership. Further, his membership isn’t diverse because, “Blacks and Latinos lack the keyboard skills needed for this field.” He also intimated that music theory is too difficult for them as an area of study.

According to McCord, he stormed out of the meeting shortly thereafter. President and CEO of the League of American Orchestras Jesse Rosen, confirmed McCord’s account and published his own. As the news circulated online, NAfME posted a statement in response:

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. We are currently conducting 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.


Michael Blakeslee

The next day, NAfME announced the news that Butera would depart and Michael Blakeslee would be promoted to the position, along with a statement confirming their comittment to disversity.

After a thorough review process, the National Executive Board of the National Association for Music Education (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. 

Additionally, we are announcing that Michael Blakeslee will serve as the new Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer for NAfME, effective immediately. Mr. Blakeslee’s vast experience and knowledge of our organization, fostered over nearly 30 years of dedicated service to NAfME and the music education profession, best position us to move forward and advocate for and provide opportunities to students and teachers.

These last few days highlight the need for real, substantive conversation about what must be done to provide access and opportunity to all students no matter where they live. This is an ongoing journey and we are ready to play an increasingly important role in convening and facilitating a dialogue and prompting action around how all of us can increase diversity, inclusion, and equity in music and the arts.


Source: New York Times
Images: NAfME

About author

Elizabeth Geli

Elizabeth Geli is the assistant editor of Halftime Magazine and a journalist/communications professional in Southern California. Her 11 years at the University of Southern California (USC) Trojan Marching Band included time as a flute player, graduate teaching assistant, and student advocate. She holds a bachelor's degree in Print Journalism and master's degree in Specialized Journalism (The Arts) from USC.