Building Support for School Music – Organizing for Action

HomeOrganizing for ActionAnalyzing the SituationPlanning and StrategyGetting to WorkEvaluating ProgressAppendix 1 and 2

In this section you will…


Set up a small and enthusiastic team, and ask each team member to develop a network of helpers.

Getting Started

Individuals, informal groups, and a few interested organizations have fought for years to maintain and improve the place of music in the public schools. In today’s budgetary climate, however, sporadic and uncoordinated actions are not enough. Everyone in the music community—educators, performers, and people in the music business—needs to work in a concerted, consistent, and constant way toward the goal of music for every child. A sustained campaign is needed, a campaign active not only at the national level, but at the state and local levels, with groups of dedicated individuals working together.

Most decisions about the curriculum and budget in America are made at the state and local levels. So while the National Coalition for Music Education works on issues of importance to us all, advocacy groups must work to improve music education locally. All of us share several important goals and strategies and share knowledge of several important facts:

  • Support for music education in our nation requires urgent and continuous action. The time for action is now—with efforts being maintained for the foreseeable future.
  • Ad-hoc reactions to crises are inadequate. The most effective time to defuse a curricular crisis is before it hits.
  • The health of music education depends upon the support of several groups: legislators, school board members, school administrators, and the general public. Any campaign designed to aid music education must reach all of these groups.
  • Many of the problems that exist in our music programs didn’t occur overnight, so complete success in implementing change may also come only after a long campaign. We need to focus on both the short-term needs of music in our schools and the long-term establishment of balance in our children’s curriculum.
  • Many of the problems faced by music programs stem from the fact that the public and decision makers simply do not understand the nature and value of music education. They need to be educated about its importance.

Local advocacy groups need to respond to these facts. If you would like to work in your local community to support music education, you need to join forces with others who have the same goal. It is the job of local music education advocacy groups to:

  • Implement the recommendations of Growing Up Complete at the classroom, school, and district levels.
  • Motivate and guide local efforts to improve music education in the schools.
  • Make local officials aware of the importance of music education and of the public’s commitment to it.
  • Ensure that the local school budget and curriculum provide adequately for music instruction.
  • Generate public support for music education in the schools.

First: Find out if another music education advocacy group is already active in your area. If so, you may want to join their efforts. If not, plan on forming a local group with a team of five to seven committed individuals. Select your team members from the various segments of the music community (especially those of local music educators and music merchants), and seek dedicated parents.

Second: Identify the special abilities and resources of your team members. This information will come in handy when you begin to divide the tasks that make up your campaign. Ask these questions:

  • Who on your team has the best access to parents?
  • Who has the best access to civic and community groups?
  • Who has the best access to the media?
  • Who can best make contact with school officials?
  • Who can most easily identify, monitor, and call on legislators, school board members, or other decision makers for your school system?
  • Who has the knowledge needed to continuously monitor the school budget, giving your music education advocacy group guidance and input that can influence your actions?

Third: Divide various tasks among several individuals. Monitoring the development of budgets, for example, can be a time-consuming task. Each team member should, therefore, set up a list of colleagues from the team and other volunteers who can be counted on to help. For speed, efficiency, and flexibility, this list may take the form of a telephone tree. Take advantage of existing organizations, such as the local arts council or the local unit of the Alliance for Arts Education, that are working to support music education. (See part 3 for a short discussion of how to identify the individuals and organizations involved.) Remember also to call these people:

  • Your teachers’ organization—it is their job to help all members.
  • Music coordinators in the local district and in nearby districts.
  • Retired music teachers and music supervisors—they may be able to contact their former colleagues.
  • Your students’ parents (perhaps through a booster’s organization)—they may want to get involved in petitioning and other helpful actions such as circulating flyers about school board meetings. They may also permit one or more of their children to address the board of education.
  • Well-known local musicians—they can bring your cause to the public.

Working Together

Even before you begin work on your campaign, you need to work on managing the actions of your campaign for maximum effect. Make certain that every member of your team agrees to the following:

  • Each contact with an individual or group, each effort to track or influence legislation or analyze progress toward attaining the levels outlined in the National Standards, and each item of publicity generated for your campaign should be part of a well-orchestrated effort to reach the goals that your team has set.
  • Clear lines of communication should be established within your team as well as with other groups and institutions. Circulate short, written summaries of information or actions to everyone on the team.