Philosophy + Advocacy = Success

To be successful at their jobs, music educators need a strong personal belief system, strategies for advocating what they believe, and the skills and energy to carry out their plans in their communities.

Kevin Tutt and Marc Townley summarized their thoughts in a recent Music Educators Journal article as “Clear goals simply stated to the right people at the right time can yield amazing results.”

Music advocacy is more than a set of specific actions. True advocacy, say Tutt and Townley, begins with the recommendation of a specific cause or policy.

“Successful advocacy,” they contend, “is based on your personal philosophy, which you promote through various actions. You ultimately measure your advocacy by your success in meeting the goals and outcomes of your philosophy.”

To be an effective advocate, Tutt and Townley recommend that music teachers

  • Develop a philosophy: Think about what you believe and what you want to accomplish. Talk to colleagues and read widely. There are writings on music education philosophy as old as Plato and Aristotle and a new as today’s blog. 
  • Establish primary and secondary goals:  Identify your school and district goals and combine them with your philosophy to create broad goals for your program. Develop secondary goals that describe the actions you need to undertake to meet the primary goals. Evaluate your resources to discover what you’ll need to fulfill your secondary goals. 
  • Create an advocacy plan: Prepare replies to all the stakeholders in your community when asked to speak about what you do, what your goals are, and what you’ll need to accomplish these goals. Be clear, and don’t ask for more than you need. Document your requests with data showing what things really cost. 
  • Have a communication strategy:  Who do you need to talk to so that your program has what it needs to be successful? Plan to spend a number of hours with administrators, school-board members, parents, community leaders, and your students to help obtain the support and materials you need to do your job well 
  • Consider your unique circumstances:  No one size fits all when it comes to being an effective advocate. As the authors conclude:

“In these difficult economic times … administrators are more likely to support programs that are led by thoughtful teachers who can clearly demonstrate the value and needs of program and how continued or increased support will benefit the students and the community at large.”

Read the complete article by Kevin Tutt and Marc Townley, “Philosophy + Advocacy = Success” online in the June 2011 Music Educators Journal, Vol. 97, no. 1, pp. 60–63. (NAfME member ID and login required.)

NAfME member Kevin Tutt is the assistant chair of the Department of Music at Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Michigan. Marc Townley is the director of bands and the fine arts director at Byron Center High School in Byron Center, Michigan.

NAfME Groundswell: This network of music educators offers advocacy resources, inspirational ideas, and the advice of colleagues to support you in your local and regional advocacy efforts. Check out the video footage that has provoked greater appreciation of music programs all across the United States. Groundswell also includes up-to-the-minute news about federal, state, and local legislation that could affect music education.

Ella Wilcox, June 17, 2011, © National Association for Music Education (