Causes is an online community founded on the belief that anyone can participate in change by informing and inspiring others. Thomas Holt, a senior at Westminster (Maryland) High School, demonstrated this when he launched a Causes social media campaign called “Save School Music” last year. The campaign, which has 178,000 followers, has raised about $4,000 in support of MENC and music education advocacy.
To applaud Holt’s effort, three MENC staffers attended the Westminster end-of-the-year band banquet on May 14. They presented Holt with an MENC medallion and the President’s Volunteer Service Award, an official recognition of the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation. Established in 2003, this program recognizes the valuable contributions volunteers make in their communities, including encouraging more people to volunteer.
Also attending was Sarah Koch, Causes nonprofit coordinator, who focuses her work on helping nonprofits and users develop effective online campaigns that make an impact. She explained, “Causes allows anyone — an activist or a nonprofit employee — to start a cause about an issue they believe in. Most of the people who I work with are nonprofit employees who have a set number of hours and resources dedicated to advancing their nonprofits’ missions.
“Thomas Holt is different, though. He is an activist unaffiliated with any nonprofit, who saw an issue that needed to be changed, and decided to do something about it. Thomas’s cause, ‘Save School Music’, has since grown to nearly 180,000 people who also value and want to preserve school music programs. Through email updates, personal stories and compelling media, Thomas provided these supporters with a way to become educated and get involved.
“He is truly a leader in the movement to preserve music education, and I hope that as he moves on to college we can continue to work together to advance the cause,” she concluded.
Following the ceremony, Holt posted a message on the Causes website: “I wanted to thank everyone who has joined the cause, sent an invite, or donated money, or even posted a link on the site. This award truly belongs to you guys, you are the soul of Save School Music!, and this is the next step to bringing more attention to music in all its forms.” Later, he added a campaign account on Twitter, the real-time information network. It will further spread the word about the importance of saving school music programs.
A bassoonist, Holt will attend Arizona State University in the fall to study music performance. “I have known Thomas Holt for nine months, as he recently transferred to Westminster High School,” said band director Mark Lortz, an MENC member. “Thomas has been a welcome addition to our program because of his musicianship and overall personality. He is well liked by his peers and presents himself in a professional manner.”
“He is a fine musician who has an excellent work ethic and personal motivation,” he continued. “He has always been well prepared for rehearsals and auditions. It has been a pleasure to have Thomas as a part of our music department. I will be sad to see Thomas leave our program as he has made a significant positive impact on all.”
Lortz shared a few of the music department’s accomplishments for the past school year.
- The Music Department’s Wind Ensemble and Orchestra both received a straight-superior rating at Adjudications since 1997.
- The Department participated in a petting zoo for Fifth Grade students, in which WHS students showcased rare instruments.
- The Department coordinated a series of two side-by-side concerts, one for band and one for orchestra, in which Elementary, Middle and High School students play together.
- The Marching Band became the first band from Maryland to win two BOA Regional competitions.
—Roz Fehr, June 10, 2010 © MENC: The National Association for Music Education
Photos by Hannah Sharp