Music Advocacy Methods: Through Your First Year and Beyond!

 

Music Advocacy Methods

Through Your First Year and Beyond!

 

By NAfME Member and Music Education Intern Megan Yingst

 

As a college student, I had this delusion of starting my first year of teaching full of gusto. My choirs would consist of well-behaved, motivated, and pitch-matching students, and I would be fighting the good fight, converting those who didn’t understand my profession to jump on the “music education is vital” bandwagon. Needless to say, many predictable—and unpredictable—obstacles arose during my first year of teaching (a solar eclipse, Hurricane Irma, school-wide gas leak evacuation . . . to name a few of the interesting moments). These events took priority as I attempted to keep up and survive another 52 minutes with my excruciating 5th period class. The days dragged on, and the year seemed to fly; then behold, year one was over. Finally!

I attended the NAfME Collegiate Advocacy Summit for the first time in 2016 and learned of a side of politics and a world of legislation I hadn’t seen before. The experience empowered me to share my story, speak to my congressional representatives with confidence, and stay involved in the political conversation rather than shy away. I attended the Summit for the second time in 2017, the summer before my first year of teaching. Anxious to begin my career, I was frantically trying to compile all that I had learned as a collegiate and brainstorm ways to continue to make a difference as a first-year teacher. I asked a few leaders and mentors, “Where do I go from here?” While their insight was thought-provoking, I didn’t get the concrete information I was hoping for.

music advocacy
Ashlee Wilcox Photography | ashleewilcoxphotography.com

 

In reflecting on this past year, I realized I learned more than I ever could have imagined through mistakes made, countless hours fumbling for solutions to the problems I faced, and the invaluable interactions I had with my students (sometimes, all you need is a hug from your sweetest 6th grader to get you through the day). However, I wish I had access to some sort of music advocacy 101 guide that had simple ways to augment my program . . . and not absorb any more of my time.

In an attempt to gain as much insight for this blog as possible, NAfME launched a survey to collect data and commentary regarding music advocacy in our schools. We surveyed past participants of the Collegiate Advocacy Summit and members of the Advocacy Leadership Force (ALF). Here is a compilation of some easy, low-maintenance ways to help you stay on that music advocacy soap box while you, too, may find yourself floundering through these first years of teaching. Enjoy!

 

Short-Term Efforts

  • Perform at school or local community events. The answer is always “yes.”
    • 73% of survey respondents reported performing at community events as a successful way to promote music advocacy.
  • Check your community for these opportunities:
    • Performances in the front office or on the bus ramp before school starts
    • Holiday parades and events
    • Relay for Life and other charity fundraisers
    • School recruitment events (transition nights for freshmen or 5th graders, open houses, etc)
    • Nursing/retirement homes (caroling, soloists before solo and ensemble time, just for fun, etc.)
    • Hospitals (around the holidays, service day, just for fun)
    • School award ceremonies (“Ohhhh say can you SEEEE”)
    • Charity projects clothing or food drives for entry into a concert rather than a fee, accept donations at concerts, donating a portion of fundraising efforts toward charity for a school year)
  • Enhance your relationship with the elementary school, middle school, or high school programs that your program feeds into or that feed into your program: Good for you and your students’ life transitions! It makes everyone more comfortable and helps your program grow!
    • Visits for recruiting purposes – whether you bring your top group, select students, or you just visit for a rehearsal with your feeder school . . . or vice versa!
    • Collaboration concerts are a great way to show the music community is united and strong! Plus, it’s nice to not always be on your own in the preparation process. Consider the teaming up with you feeder schools or the following:
      • Other fine arts concentrations at your school. Everyone likes a short, well-executed combined—or sometimes called “prism”—concert.
      • Pretty artwork or featured small ensembles in the lobby of your concert inform audience members of the art programs beyond your discipline.
      • Other local schools
    • Joint rehearsals
      • GREAT DURING FESTIVAL TIME! – Your feeder high school’s top group visits for a day, performs for your students, then helps rehearse the middle school’s festival music or some variation thereof . . . it’s honestly the best!
    • Invite visitors into your classroom whether it be parents, administrators, other teachers, music supervisors, district personnel, or elected officials. It’s hard for them to truly understand what you do unless they see it for themselves.

“I invite those with different viewpoints to visit my classroom if possible, and especially to attend my students’ community outreach performances. I believe that establishing a regular presence in the community is critical to receiving widespread support for my program (not to mention increasing advocacy for music education exponentially through word of mouth!).”—survey participant Olivia Tempesta (first-year general music teacher from Connecticut) 

  • Invite your supervisors, administrators, colleagues, school board members, elected representatives, or local media to your concert. Scary, I know, but do most of them really know if your altos are a bit flat during the harmony split? Doubt it.
    • Handwritten invitations from your students to your concert
      • “I choose you!” notes are highly effective! Have your students invite their favorite teachers or administrators to their upcoming concert. Have the students distribute the invites themselves or leave them in your colleagues’ mail boxes.
    • Recognize the people you invited if they attend your concert.
      • “Administrators, teachers, and elected officials, please stand. Let’s applaud their work and support for _______ school, our community, and our students!”
      • Representatives and School Board members see this as a way to connect with their constituents—always useful prior to election day!
    • Inform the media, audience, parents, administrators, and colleagues on why what you’re doing is important . . . and use the students to do so!

“One time, I heard a mentor teacher (Patrick Garrett) announce at his concert, ‘If you see or hear something you liked, tell someone.’ I think it is so important to encourage our communities to join us in our advocacy work. Sometimes all it takes is a little encouragement, and we plant the seeds for effective music advocacy.”—Kathleen Fox (middle school general music teacher from West Virginia and a member of ALF)

    • Include program inserts that highlight music statistics regarding:
      • Graduation rates/attendance rates
      • Brain development research
      • Happiness
      • Team-building and interpersonal skills gained
      • Critical thinking
      • See state MEA pages for state-specific results
    • Inform audience members, teachers, and parents on how they can help your program. Keep a running, accessible list of needed supplies and wish list items.
    • Make them feel included in your accomplishments, and share how fortunate we are to have these opportunities at our school.
      • Talk about how the students, school, and the overall community
      • Gained skills
    • Ask students why music is important to them, include their quotes in the program, or have them present their thoughts in between transitions during your concerts.
      • You can do this with accomplishments, too! Let the kids brag about themselves.
    • Tell personal stories about yourself.
      • Let your students’ parents get to know YOU so they can see the big picture and jump on your bandwagon.

“My [students’] parents are the loudest voice when it comes to advocating for the program—whether it’s for the student or even the teacher. If you have parents who know how hard you work for your students, they will stand behind you 100%.”—survey participant, Angelete Frein (secondary band teacher from Missouri) 

    • 61% of survey participants value a social media presence for their program.
      • Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
      • Newsletters
      • Include parents or students in creation to your own discretion

 

Long-Term Efforts

 

  • Inform yourself!
    • 92% of survey participants refer to NAfME’s Advocacy page for information on current legislation.
    • 61% of survey participants reported using their Music Education Association as a source for advocacy efforts.
    • Do you know who your elected officials are? Find out!
    • Find out how your elected representatives view education policies.
    • See if they voted yes, no, or abstained for education funding.
    • Do they support music education and music education supportive policies?
    • Keep in mind that our elected officials not only greatly impact the future of our nation’s schools. . . but also the future of our children! Be invested and proactive!
  • Apply for leadership development programs in your MEA or NAfME.
  • Continue to seek out professional development (Conferences, Webinars, NAfME Academy)
  • Contact your elected representatives and let them know when you agree (or disagree) with what they are doing.
advocacy
Photo by Victoria Chamberlin | www.victoriachamberlin.com

Resources and Templates

 

Resources you may find useful in your program.

 

Quotes in Support of Music Advocacy in Our Schools

 

Thank you to all Collegiate Advocacy Summit Alumni and members of the Advocacy Leadership Force for your participation in our survey! Below are their testaments to the importance of music education in our schools:

“Music is a crucial component of a well-rounded education for students, and that support stems both from advocacy and authentic demonstration of the positive impact of music and the arts on a school’s climate.” – Olivia Tempesta, first-year general music teacher from Connecticut

“Music allows children to express themselves in ways that other subjects do not allow. Not only is it a form of expression, but physical exertion, problem-solving, collaboration, and historically valuable. Music seamlessly integrates every school subject and allows the students to personally grow and love what they do. Advocacy is part of every music teacher’s job. In some areas, it is much more important than others. Every music teacher needs to do their part in educating not only students, but their colleagues, administration, and community on the importance of music education.” – Fred Volz, first-year orchestra and general music teacher from New York

 

concert
iStockphoto.com | Bibica

 

“Advocacy is an ongoing effort to communicate the value of music. To grow the music program so that it may reach the most students possible is the product of effective advocacy. It must therefore be persistent, consistent, and always considered when decisions come across that have implications for the program and the students.” – Nick Mossa, first-year high school band teacher from New Jersey

“Music education advocacy is very important because, in most school districts, music education is not a mandated requirement. If people do not advocate for the program, then it can be cut if there needs to be a change in staffing or the budget. A child needs to be human, through experiencing music and movement on a regular basis.” – Brian Fanning, elementary and band teacher from Massachusetts

“Students shine in my program, whereas they struggle in others. Others witness this, and value the power of music as it relates to ALL kids.” – Kathleen Fox, middle school general music teacher from West Virginia, ALF member

“Explaining the importance of music education with someone with different viewpoints takes multiple conversations over time. Relationship-building is another word for advocacy.” – Jazzmone Sutton, elementary general music and choir teacher from North Carolina, ALF member

 

 

About the author:

choral teacher
Ashlee Wilcox Photography | ashleewilcoxphotography

NAfME member Megan Yingst is the Choral Director at Mulberry Middle School in Mulberry, Florida, and serves as the Children’s Choir Coordinator at First Presbyterian Church of Lakeland. She holds a B.M.E. degree from Florida Southern College. Megan recently completed a summer music education internship with the National Association for Music Education in Washington, D.C. In her spare time, Megan enjoys singing with the Festival Singers of Florida.

 

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The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) provides a number of forums for the sharing of information and opinion, including blogs and postings on our website, articles and columns in our magazines and journals, and postings to our Amplify member portal. Unless specifically noted, the views expressed in these media do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Association, its officers, or its employees.

Catherina Hurlburt, Marketing Communications Manager. July 26, 2018. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)