NAfME’s Tri-M Program Fosters Development of the Whole Child

Brandon Sanders, (far right) former band director and Tri-M advisor at Chesterfield-Ruby (SC) Middle School works with his former students at an elementary school band recruiting session. Chesterfield-Ruby won Junior Division Chapter of the Year in its first year of existence.


The Tri-M Music Honor Society® is an international music honor society for middle/junior high and high school students. A program of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), it is designed to recognize students for their academic and musical achievements, reward them for their accomplishments and service activities, and inspire other students to excel at music and leadership.

Prior to the 2013–2014 school year, Brandon Sanders, then band director at Chesterfield-Ruby Middle School in Chesterfield, South Carolina, decided to charter a new Tri-M® at his school. He’d read about the program in NAfME’s Teaching Music and on the NAfME website. He believed that his students would benefit from the program. which teaches service and nurtures leadership skills.

His students learned those lessons so well, from partnering with another school organization for a Relay for Life fundraiser, to enthusiastically participating in a big brother/ little brother, big sister/little sister band buddy program, that his chapter was named 2014 National Tri-M Chapter of the Year in its first year of existence.

Sanders taught at Chesterfield-Ruby for four years, his first teaching position after college. Now director of bands at Springfield Middle School in Fort Mill, South Carolina, he hopes to start a chapter at his new school soon.

He says that the Tri-M Handbook and other materials NAfME offers to walk chapter advisors through the steps of establishing and running a chapter are very thorough.

“When I went in to my administrator, I was able to show her it was well-respected, long-established program.”

The fact that Tri-M is an approved activity of NASSP (the National Association of Secondary School Principals) was an important selling point as well.”

Sanders also says Tri-M helped to encourage community participation for his program, including parents who wanted to help to organize the school’s chapter induction ceremony. Chesterfield-Ruby is located in a rural area of South Carolina. 

A one-time drum major who knew at an early age that he wanted to be a music teacher, Sanders said he also likes the Tri-M program because it helps to foster a sense of accomplishment for students in other parts of their academic life.

“I care about the whole child. I want to know students are doing well in all of their subjects, that they are learning and growing all of the time. Tri-M gives students leadership skills and helps them set goals,” Sanders says. “It requires excellence.”

It’s not too late to charter a chapter for the 2015–16 school-year. Start a Tri-M chapter at your school in 3 easy steps!

Should you want to start a chapter, NAfME offers a Tri-M learning guide to help you get started. In need of service ideas? Our Quick Start Guide has several templates for service projects and also great fundraising ideas!