Most booster groups raise funds to supplement school music programs. But do they help out when there is a threat to the program? Who speaks for the students when budget cuts loom? Under a dedicated and impassioned leader, school music programs can inspire parents and citizens to help make persuasive cases to the powers that be.
At the District Level
Even strong programs can be at risk. The Fairfax County school system in Virginia faced budget challenges recently, and the cuts threatened the elementary and middle school music programs. The booster groups and concerned citizens came together via the Fairfax Arts Coalition for Education (FACE).
The Fairfax coalition reached out to the school board and decision makers via emails, phone calls, and petitions and created community via Facebook. They attended meetings, and got the press involved, and worked with music advocate John Benham on data that helped make their case. Choral boosters joined with band and orchestra boosters, and even citizens without children in the school system were involved.
At the School Level
The Chantilly High School Choral program (in Fairfax County, VA) has a strong and dedicated booster group. Mary McVicar, vice president of the choral boosters, says the Chantilly parents don’t just raise money – they attend and help out at concerts, participate in conferences; they email, write, voice opinions, and are pretty much “there” whenever help is needed. They build sets for shows, make costumes, and they chaperone trips. McVicar says, “we have an ‘army’ for every need….we even have an army of dads to help with sets on weekends, and there’s a waiting list to chaperone the students on trips.”
McVicar says the music programs “would not be possible” without the parents’ assistance and dedication. She explains that there is no financial incentive to do this; parents participate because they truly believe in the program, they see how much participating in the choral program gives to their kids. McVicar says, “I don’t have to prod people to help; they just do it.”
McVicar herself, who works a regular job, is willing to work late hours and on weekends for the boosters because she feels it’s “unbelievable what it gives back” to her. Mary says, “I get so much out of it; it’s humbling to see how dedicated the parents are.”
What is the secret to this dedicated group? Come back next week!
–Sue Rarus, January 19, 2011, © National Association for Music Education