PLEASE NOTE: This page contains suggestions for family and community members who want to actively support music education in the schools. A parallel page exists with suggestions for music educators who engage with families and community members regarding advocacy.
Most family members and guardians simply want what is best for their kids. Typically, for most, this means having an excellent music class in which to enroll their children. They want to know that their child is challenged, growing musically, and having fun in the process. In fact, the most effective advocacy tool is a high-quality, engaging curriculum.
Developing and maintaining a high-quality, challenging curriculum involves many moving parts. Fortunately, there are many ways that you as family and community members can assist music instructors. The many co-curricular and extra-curricular opportunities that schools offer are tailor made for parent-instructor partnerships.
Beginning a Partnership with Teachers
Like the old axiom states, “It takes a whole village to educate a child.”
The first step in establishing parent/family support for a music curriculum would be for you to meet with the music instructor. The music teacher’s role is to write and deliver the curriculum. Family and community members will need to understand that they will serve in a support role. Teachers will know the areas in which volunteers can support students’ learning.
Many music instructors would welcome help with clerical work such as filing or printing. Some music teachers even set up a rotating schedule of “office helpers” for continuity. Supporters with a background in music may serve as an accompanist or assist with tuning. Support for special events, performances, or travel is always appreciated too. Teachers will have many non-curricular tasks that could use your help.
Contributing to a Parent Support Group
While assisting as an individual is always valuable, coordinating efforts with other family and community members allows the group to take on bigger projects, freeing the music instructor to focus on the curricular needs of their students. If your child’s music class does not have a music support group, consider approaching the music teacher to start one. If it does have a booster organization, join it. Music support groups are important for fundraising and concert support, but these groups can also be an invaluable source of partners for an advocacy effort. It should be noted that these groups can assist with funding for the extra-curricular components, but curriculum and the classroom must be supported by district and school budgets. School district responsibilities should include, but not be limited to, instruments, pianos/keyboards, classroom furniture, sheet music purchases, computers, facilities, school membership fees, and miscellaneous classroom supplies.
As you recruit other adults, remember that good music learning opportunities inspire. They not only inspire students; they also inspire family and community members. As such, music study in schools has a resource that is rare among academic disciplines: adults who are willing to give their time and energy in support.
Here are some guidelines to consider when organizing a booster or music support group in collaboration with the music teachers:
- Consider operating with a board structure. Look for parent officers that have vision and are able to see the big picture for all kids, not just their own children. The board should include representatives from all areas and age groups.
- Operate by committee. Organize all functions within a committee structure that reports back to the board. Family and community members have varying amounts of time to dedicate to the organization, so it helps to provide different levels of opportunities to contribute. Some like the organizational aspect of coordinating an event. Others are more than happy to be “worker bees” and help at a fundraiser. By developing a sense of community for family and community members, you are encouraging ongoing support for music education at your student’s school. Suggested committees might include:
- Fundraising sale
- Fundraising event
- Concert support and receptions
- Uniform and equipment maintenance
- Develop a mission statement for the music support group. Consult with the music teachers and make sure it is compatible with any existing music department mission statement. A strong mission statement that ties to the mission of the district makes music advocacy easier.
- Develop by-laws and secure tax exempt status for receiving charitable gifts as soon as possible. Often there is a parent with accounting or legal background that can assist with this.
- Partner closely with the music instructors. They will undoubtedly appreciate your help and input, but remember, the music educator ultimately is responsible for the vision and direction of the academic curriculum.
Serving on a Music Advocacy Committee
Advocacy can take on many forms and work at many levels: national, state, and local. This may require letter-writing skills, speaking skills, negotiation skills, or just the willingness to communicate clearly from the heart. Again, teachers can be great resources even in situations where they don’t feel they can speak directly. They can still answer questions and provide data.
Perhaps the most important committee for a school music support group is the Advocacy Committee.
- Academic support is the goal of this committee. Look for family and community members that are articulate, calm and analytical. This group should stay aware of any school board decisions that may affect student music learning opportunities.
- Consider establishing a rotating presence at school board meetings to stay on top of issues and develop personal relationships with board members. Remember, relationships are the cornerstone of advocacy.
- If necessary, representatives of this committee may need to speak with the district board of education or administration to advocate for things like added staffing and expansion of the curriculum. They may also be called upon to argue against any proposed cuts.
- If an issue arises, be ready to take the lead when talking with administrators. Always remember, family and community have a powerful voice when speaking with decision makers because they will not be seen as defending their job. In some cases your voice may be considered more strongly. Put the students at the center of all your advocacy efforts. Frame your points on how a decision will affect student learning and opportunities. For more on strategies on how to respond to a proposed cut, please visit https://wmeamusic.org/ac/practical-guidelines/
Teachers and administrators always appreciate those family and community members who are supportive and willing to give of their time as part of a team working for all of our music students. Together we can ensure that children are receiving strong, equitable, and adequately funded access to a well rounded education.