Take steps now to strengthen your music program. Budget cuts across the nation are putting programs in jeopardy. Richard Victor, the Pennsylvania MEA advocacy chair, emphasizes program unity.
“Every school district should have an organized coalition of music parents and music teachers representing every aspect of the music program,” Victor says. “This is not a general music, band, choir, or orchestra issue—it’s a music issue! The coalition must be configured as a single organization, with an agenda supporting each curricular area within the music curriculum.”
Don’t fall prey to the divide-and-conquer game. Teachers sometimes divide by discipline, but parents often have several children in various areas of music study. Victor recommends the following unified approach:
For the music coalition:
- Meet first with all local district music teachers to discuss and agree on local district needs.
- Treat general music, band, choir, and orchestra programs equally in scheduling and per-pupil budgeting.
- Create an environment where each performing ensemble can succeed, but never at the expense of the other.
- Identify local supporters to serve on the Executive Committee. Look for parents, music merchants, and community leaders who share the unified department’s goals and represent all areas of the music program.
The Executive Committee develops a local action plan and works to expand active membership and implement the action plan.
For classroom music faculty:
- Share a common, districtwide philosophy, and “it should be in support of and supported by the music performance faculty,” says Victor.
For music performance faculty:
- Accept that you’re not competing with each other for the most talented students. “A student’s success in any group is a success for the entire program,” says Victor.
- Share a common, districtwide philosophy for teaching students. “More quality students will be attracted and retained by a program that places the development of the student above the development of the performing ensemble.”
“Music teachers acquire power when they are professionally united and have an active music coalition,” says Victor. “The real political power of a music program lies in its community coalition.”
Richard Victor teaches at State College Area High School in State College, Pennsylvania, and is the PMEA advocacy chair. He credits John Benham and SupportMusic.com for many of the concepts presented.
This article was adapted from “Saving Your Music Program,” by Richard Victor, in the Spring 2006 issue of PMEA News. Used with permission.
—Linda C. Brown, April 28, 2010, © National Association for Music Education (nafme.org)