The Early Years

The Illinois Music Education Association (ILMEA) is a not-for-profit professional association representing every level of music education in every discipline.   The history of ILMEA may be traced back to 1939 when the association began.  The earliest extant membership roster lists 639 names, compared to the 5000+ members today.

ILMEA celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 1989 and, in The Illinois Music Educator state journal of that year, highlights and benchmarks of our early history were shared with the membership.  While it was difficult to find all of the documents as a result of several state office location changes, we do know that Tom Richardson was the first Executive Secretary and that he also served as editor of publications.  The first recorded State President was Frances Chatburn, who served from 1942 to 1945.

In January, 1949, the first Illinois All-State Music Activity was held on the campus of the University of Illinois. The event featured a chorus, orchestra and a band, though the band wasn’t “officially” listed as a performing ensemble until the following year. In 1953, Tom Richardson proposed extensive restructuring of the association and the constitution was first adopted in November, 1953. Over the next several years the All-State Activity continued to be held in Urbana-Champaign, then in Springfield and, in 1958, the Tenth Annual All-State was held in Peoria and an All-State Junior Chorus was added. Twenty-nine members of the Music Trades Industry exhibited at the 1959 All-State.

Growth & Expanding Service

In 1961-62, a significant change occurred.  The structure now included six geographic “districts” that allowed for many more performance opportunities for students at the district level. This “district” structure continues today though the number of geographic regions has expended to nine as numbers of participating schools and students increased.  ILMEA became a State recognized 501(c)3 not-for-profit association in 1963.  Tom Richardson, who played such a major role in the early development of the association, completed 21 years of service as Executive Secretary and retired in March, 1968.

Richardson was followed by Christopher Izzo as Executive Secretary.  Izzo remained in that position for the next 15 years until 1983. During his tenure, the association continued to grow and service to the music education community expanded with the addition of the Junior High/Elementary Music (JEM), Higher Education, and Jazz Divisions.

All-State moved to Arlington Heights in 1973 where the grand finale concerts were presented in the Arlington Park Race Track Clubhouse.  The next “home” for the All-State Conference was the Conrad Hilton Hotel in downtown Chicago (1977-1981).   During this time frame the Secondary Non-Performing Arts (SNAP) Division was established to encourage music composition, arranging and improvisation.   The SNAP Division continues today under the new acronym “SGM” (Secondary General Music).  The All-State, and the ILMEA State Office, moved to Springfield in 1982 where it remained until 1984.  With the construction of the Peoria Civic Center, the All-State returned again to Peoria where it has remained ever since.

Continuing Tradition

The ILMEA State Office was moved to Ottawa when John Kinnison was appointed Executive Director after Chris Izzo resigned.  Kinnison had begun his leadership service in 1969 as District II President.  Rising through the ranks on the Board of Directors, Kinnison was appointed Executive Director in 1983 and served until his retirement in 1996.

Randolph F. Kummer took over as Executive Director from John Kinnison.  Like Kinnison, he had served ILMEA for many years as a District Band Division Chair, District Band Division Representative, District I President, and State President.  He was brought into the State Office as Executive Assistant in 1995 and a smooth transition occurred when he became Executive Director in 1996.  Under his effective leadership, ILMEA continued to expand in size and scope.  While maintaining and improving its mission of providing quality music performance experiences for students, the Association responded as well to the professional needs of the music education community including professional development, music teacher recruitment and retention, effective delivery of instruction, and advocacy for music and the other Fine Arts in our schools.  Randy served until his retirement in 2010.

After a year-long search following Kummer's resignation announcement, the Board of Directors hired Darcy A. Nendza to serve as Executive Director. A nonprofit administration professional, Nendza began her career with 8 years at The Midwest Clinic: An International Band and Orchestra Conference in Chicago, IL. After a year as Manager of Meeting Services for the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, Nendza joined ILMEA in March 2010.