7 Things They Don’t Teach Music Education Majors
[That You’ll Wish They Had]
By NAfME Member Elisa Jones
It took me longer than the average music educator to get my degree. I took extra semesters of instrument pedagogy. I insisted on voice and conducting lessons, in addition to those I was taking on horn. I performed in every ensemble I was accepted into, and even took extra education courses, and worked at a music store, just to make sure I had everything that I would need to be a super-successful and ultra-prepared music educator.
As much as I knew about teaching music, there was a lot I didn’t know about how to run a music program. Unfortunately, this is the same trial-by-fire that a lot of current music educators have to face upon graduation, and many much longer into the future than that.
The good news is that, just like any skill, these program management skills—business skills—can be taught. If you’re thinking about which bases of knowledge you’d like to add to your already robust skill set, let me recommend these, to start.
I know you already know how to send email, but do you know how to get people to give you their emails, enter them into a system, and then nurture those contacts for the benefit of your program?
If you’re not familiar with collecting leads both in-person and online, creating email newsletters in 30 minutes or less, and regularly sending them out to build those relationships, then it’s time to step up your email game. From advocacy to funding, having a robust email list of dedicated followers will serve you very, very well.
Even most small business owners are unaware of how to craft a custom marketing plan for their business. Yet learning this one formula can ensure the success of everything you value: getting kids in your program, people to your concerts, and money in your accounts.
Most music educators tread the delicate balance between podium-ego and self-deprecation. This does not tend to serve us well when we are tapped for funds or negotiating with our principal for a new set of risers. We have to know how to demonstrate humble confidence, the kind that is irresistible. It’s what all good sales professionals have and we should, too.
You probably balance your own accounts and track your own spending, but reading financial statements like budgets, projections, and P/L statements might be just outside of your wheelhouse. Learning how to create financial statements and use that information to make decisions will serve you whenever you have to make decisions about funding—or when you’re convincing your administration to come around to your point of view about those decisions.
I call this one “knowing how to play the system.” It takes skill to understand all of the restrictions placed on our program management, and then to use that understanding to still get what we need and want by knowing the loopholes and using them, while still being ethical and totally legit.
From negotiating rehearsal times with the other teachers at our school to mitigating the risk of confrontation with angry parents, diplomacy can serve us well. The ability to be suave in the face of debacle is truly a skill that will not only save your job, but your sanity as well.
Whether you’re simply creating a repository for documents your students can access from home, or a full-blown funding machine, having the basic skills to create something both beautiful and usable is essential in our ever-more-digital world. Knowing a handful of webmaster skills will not only serve you as a music educator, but as a member of society.
Though there are certainly many other skills you can add to your metaphorical teacher tool box, these seven will go a long way to ensuring the pleasure and longevity you find in your career as a music educator.
You can learn more about each of these skills and discover tips on how to integrate them into your own skill set by watching my workshop, “7 Business Skills Successful Music Educators Have,” now online at NAfME Academy.
About the author:
NAfME member Elisa Jones specializes in helping music educators build, grow, and manage thriving school music programs. With an MBA alongside her degree in music, she is also a coach and consultant to small businesses and nonprofits around the country. She has been teaching music for nearly 20 years and currently holds the prestigious position of elementary music teacher at a private K-8 Catholic School in Grand Junction, Colorado.
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