I was recently at the Iowa Bandmaste's Conference and sat in on a great presentation by David Law, a past president of the IBA and current president of the Iowa Alliance for Arts Education. One of his duties is travelling around the state providing assistance to schools that find themselves in the face of potential fine arts program cuts. His main point throughout the presentation was that school music programs should be proactive instead of reactive and start advocating for their programs BEFORE the threat of cuts emerges. Here are the top six suggestions that I found to be very useful.
#1- Start a Facebook page for your organization and have parents and other supporters log in. Make sure that interesting things are posted in a timely manner. Have a parent update it for you. Do NOT use school time or resources to update your band's Facebook page.
#2- Talk with your principal and superintendent and volunteer to make a short presentation to your school board on the arts and your program. Bring in a few students to make the presentation and maybe even play for them. Better yet, have your students offer to give the school board members a quick lesson on how to play their instruments. Try to do this early in the fall semester.
#3- Put your standards and benchmarks in your concert programs! List which benchmark or standard is being covered by each selection. Don't want to waste space on the program? Put it in a looping powerpoint and have it playing on the screen behind the band before and after the concert or during intermission. Add in some photos and other good PR stuff for added punch.
#4- List your administration and school board members in your concert programs. Recognize them when they are there. Ask them to read program notes aloud for you. Also try to have your students read the program notes if possible.
#5- If your school district, chamber of commerce, city council, or other group will allow it ask them to put recordings of your bands as the "on hold" music for their phone system.
#6- Make a video of your organization and see if your district or city web site will post it on their home page for a while.
For more great suggestions and advocacy materials be sure to take a closer look at the advocacy resources page over at the Iowa Alliance for Arts Education.
Chad Criswell is a career music educator working in the Iowa public schools. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications both online and in print. He currently serves as the national music technology writer for NAfME's Teaching Music Magazine and has presented sessions at numerous music education conferences including the 2012 Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic.
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