Submitted by Plank Road Publishing, Brookfield, Wisconsin
Idea posted August 7, 2002
It seems like a lot of people want to help music programs survive these days, and that's a good thing. It seems like every week sees some new organization jump in with its ideas, from the Musicians' Union to the VH1 channel, from Pepsi to Oscar Mayer. Unfortunately, this speaks a sad truth and that is that these folks are wanting to help save music because it is in trouble in many schools. State and local budget deficits make music a target for cuts in staffing, classroom space, and teaching resources.
That's why so many teachers are talking about Music Advocacy and trying to do something about it in their communities. Rightly so. But it has always seemed to us that the music programs that are the most secure are those that have made themselves indispensable in their schools and in their towns. Here are some ways that other schools are doing this. Some of them might work well for you.
Become the center of your school - Meet with your classroom teachers early and tie some of your music planning to their special units for the year. And let them know what you have planned. Update them as the year progresses. Then share projects with them, by collaborating on performances or planning teaching extensions that cross the curriculum. (Doing a performance of "This Is America," for instance, can present many such opportunities in various subjects while also meeting a number of music objectives.)
Get the word out - When you plan a performance, let everyone know about it, early and often. Use posters, flyers for parents, press releases to local media, and even school e-mails to get teachers, administrators, parents, and local government leaders at the event. Then, once you have them there, be sure that they see more than just your performance. Use displays at the entrance that show off your music program and other educational positives.
Get the sights and sounds out - Modern technology makes it easy and fairly inexpensive to do some exciting projects. Two that have been proven winners are creating a web site for your school's music department and producing a CD of your choir or other performing group. Get the kids involved in every step of the planning and design. They will love it and learn while they are doing it. And both of these projects are officially COOL! And, of course, once the project comes to fruition, get the word out. Share the web address with everyone mentioned above, and give them new things to look at every so often. Use the CD as a fund-raiser, maybe for charity, maybe for your program. Oh, yeah, and do get permission up front. No surprises are a good thing with administrators.