Every day can be a day you advocate for your music program through your exchanges with your students’ families.
If you have a booster club, newsletter, or website to disseminate information about events and fund-raising, you can use these mechanisms to, in the words of Alfred S. Townsend, “foster communication that has real educational substance.”
- Teach more than the children: “By educating parents,” says Townsend, you’ll create a powerful source of advocacy for your program.” Parents and guardians of your music students “can participate intimately as learners together with their children.”
- Distribute a quarterly information packet with concepts/skills to be learned: Curricula for music classes and ensembles will include listening lessons (YouTube can be a great source) and short quizzes that a parent can take along with a child in a “spirit of friendly competition.” Townsend suggests including a “Beyond the Melody: What to Listen for at Our Concerts” section, as well as a “How to Practice Your Instrument” document.
- Provide certificates of achievement or other recognition for students and parents who complete sections of the home packet: People of all ages appreciate small, tangible rewards for success and mastery. Mention parents (“John Rivera, father of our piccolo player Meghan, completed the music take-home packet in three weeks!”) who do these assignments at your concerts or other events.
- Conduct a survey at the beginning and end of the school year: “Parent and student feedback are essential to program growth,” says Townsend. Encourage students and their families to comment and suggest improvements to any aspect of the program—you may be surprised at some ideas. Don’t forget to ask the person with the great idea to volunteer to help implement it!
Says Townsend, “High-quality communication will occur if you strive to move beyond mere public relations and invite parents to take the musical journey along with you.”
This six-part series is adapted from “Driving Music Education: Who’s at the Wheel?” a Lectern column by Alfred S. Townsend printed in the August 2008 issue of Teaching Music.
MENC member Alfred S. Townsend is the first appointee to the F. Ludwig Diehn Endowed Chair in Instrumental Music Education in the music department of Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, where he teaches graduate and undergraduate music education courses. His current research includes developing a research-based philosophy of teaching and learning, and connecting parents with learning what their children are studying in music classrooms.
–Ella Wilcox, January 19, 2011, © National Association for Music Education (www.nafme.org)