3 Ways It Takes a Community to Develop a Great Music Program
By Anthony Mazzocchi
I was honored to speak at this year’s NAfME National In-Service conference in Nashville. It was exciting to see thousands of music educators from around our country who were looking for ways to develop themselves as educators and musicians. At the time of this great conference, hundreds of thousands of students were learning to play an instrument for the very first time. But if history is any indicator, more than half of these students will quit one year from now.
What if administrators and educators truly valued how the arts leverage engagement and achievement in school?
We can change this course of history.
I believe we have a better chance to do this now than at any other time, in fact. This is because we finally are hearing the words “creativity” and “innovation” creeping into conversations regarding education from politicians, administrators, and educators. This is a moment where music education has a chance to enter the limelight as a tool to enhance our children’s educational experience — as long as everyone is on board.
Here are some action-steps stakeholders in our school systems need to take in order to ensure all students experience music throughout their K-12 education:
Administrators must schedule music appropriately.
What if administrators and educators truly valued how the arts leverage engagement and achievement in school? Some do, and they are the ones who have model school schedules that include daily music instruction for all grade levels. To be clear, these admininstrators and educators are not attempting to turn all of their students into professional musicians. Instead, they believe that for educational experiences in music to produce their intended beneficial effects, students need ample time to experience it.
Music education can be a powerful medium through which students come to love learning.
For the more serious music student, those who do wish to follow their passion should be given enough dedicated time to pursue it, and to move toward proficiency and even mastery — especially in public school. When it is approached with a seriousness of purpose and scheduled effectively, music education can be a powerful medium through which students come to love learning, strive for greatness, and imagine a fulfilling, purposeful life. Schools can — and need to — do better to schedule it into every day.
Teachers must be great pedagogues and great communicators.
It’s impossible for me (or anyone) to produce a complete and definitive list of the characteristics of great music teaching. Knowing the qualities of greatness can help teachers strive for the highest standards and help students, parents, and school systems celebrate music as a core part of their curricula. Observing a great music teacher at the top of his or her game is like watching a masterful performance; although infinitely difficult and painstakingly planned, great teaching appears effortless and seamless.
Highly effective music teachers keep the concepts at the highest level but the explanations short and incredibly clear, both for their students and the greater school community. They must consistently communicate the power of music education to administrators and fellow teachers, and empower parents to help cultivate their child’s talent at home.
Parents must support their child’s music education.
Obviously, this is the main thrust of my book, blog, and speaking. Parents who make a long-term commitment to music instruction give children the tools to succeed in music, and therefore in life. It is one of the greatest gifts they can give this year. The more parents begin to treat music as the core subject it is, the more they will investigate easy strategies to support their child’s practice at home in ways that do not disrupt their life too much. Perseverance, commitment, loyalty, and grit are all values I hope that I — and my schools — instill in my children. Teaching and learning these incredible life skills is difficult without parents being on board.
What is our goal for education?
I believe that school systems must do everything in their power to create conditions in which students want to and are able to learn. Parents need to continue to advocate for music to be included in school curricula, and teachers must fuel parents with knowledge in order for them to effectively advocate for their programs and help grow a new generation of musician, music lover, and future innovator.
It was wonderful to share my thoughts on music education with the greater NAfME community. As long as we continue these talks and take action at home, we can build a music community in our schools that transforms our system into the creative learning center our children deserve.
About the author:
A GRAMMY® nominated music educator, Anthony Mazzocchi has performed as a trombonist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, New Jersey Symphony, San Diego Symphony, San Diego Opera, Riverside Symphony, Key West Symphony, in various Broadway shows and numerous recordings and movie soundtracks.
Tony has served as faculty or as a frequent guest lecturer at The Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, New York University, and Mannes College of Music. He has taught students from K-college, and has served as a district Director of Fine and Performing Arts in the South Orange/Maplewood School District. Tony has been a consultant for arts organizations throughout the NY/NJ area.
Tony blogs about how to be a successful music parent at The Music Parent’s Guide, and the book by the same name can be bought here. He has written a method book for music teachers called Band Director’s Method Book Companion.
Tony is currently Associate Director of the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University in New Jersey. He is also Executive Director of the Kinhaven Summer Music School in Weston, Vermont. Tony is a clinician for Courtois – Paris.