You know how important music education is, but unfortunately, not everyone does. Whatever your role may be, it’s hard to advocate for your school music program when it feels like you’re the only one speaking. Now throw in the consequences of a global pandemic, and it’s harder still. Directors may not be able to meet in person with prospective students, and annual instrument petting zoos aren’t possible. Established recruitment strategies are out of the question.

How can you grow your program—or even maintain it—under these conditions?

Challenge students, past and present, to step up. Ask those who know the benefits of your program to share their positive experiences with the world by giving testimonials!

These testimonials will serve as evergreen pieces of content that you can point to for years to come. Share them with incoming students, parents, and other stakeholders—anyone who could be invested in the success of your program. Testimonials can function as social proof, showing that your program produces responsible citizens. Prospective students and their parents will look to them for a peek into their own futures. For current students, testimonials can reinforce the good choices they made when they joined your program and may help you retain them even longer. They’ll remind alumni and other community members of the value of your program and will inspire them to advocate for music education in your district.

Plus, they’re a dynamic activity that can be executed in any learning environment—in-person or remote, individually or as a team—and submitted digitally. It’s also repeatable: each year brings a new incoming class, plus a new class of alumni, and each passing year creates new experiences. Consider doing this project annually as a sort of “exit interview” for your students before they leave for summer break. Then, watch your library of testimonials—and your entire music program—grow.

Testimonials, as well as other advocacy initiatives, can be made even more effective with the incorporation of Social Emotional Learning (SEL)! Dr. Scott N. Edgar has provided information about SEL, as well as, SEL-related advocacy prompts to incorporate into your testimonials project. Check these out later in this article!

Ready to being mobilizing your students? Let's do it!

Follow these steps to implement testimonials into YOUR advocacy strategy:

  1. Choose a medium
    1. Video: Video is the gold standard of testimonials. Viewers can see and hear from each student, and short videos are the ultimate in shareable content. Horizontal or vertical? Horizontal works well for YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, and Twitter, while vertical is better for Snapchat, TikTok, and the stories feature on all platforms. Choose a location where ambient sounds in your background won't distract the viewer. It could be extra compelling to choose a background and/or props that illustrate a student's experience: shoot in a rehearsal room, hold an instrument, wear an ensemble tee shirt or jacket, or hang music medals and certificates behind you. 
    2. Written: Some people aren't comfortable on camera or just think better when they put their thoughts on paper. That's great! Students can write out responses to prompts in as much detail as they wish. These excerpts can appear in letters or reports to the school board, as a blog post, in email blasts, or as text-only posts on social media. Or perhaps...
    3. Audio: Students can create an audio file of their thoughts. This way, we can accommodate those who aren't comfortable on camera while still allowing them to use their voices to advocate for music education. Their thoughts can be read from the page and recorded for a polished performance. To share these, they can be made into videos for social media. Create a montage of still photos or compile "b-roll" video of your program, featuring the audio testimonial (and perhaps an inspirational music bed) underneath.
      1. Note: for audio and video content, consider adding closed-captioning. Not only does it make your content more accessible for those who need it, but captioning is also a boon to those who are served muted auto-play videos, or who are watching videos publicly without headphones. (They'd never do that in CLASS, though, right?) There are a number of apps you can use, like Threads, Cliptomatic, and MixCaptions.
  2. Communicate Clearly - no matter which medium students choose, their testimonial should include the following
    1. Introduction
      1. Name
      2. School
      3. Instrument or Section
      4. Current Role (member, section leader, drum major, alumni, etc.)
    2. Prompts
      1. Choose 1 or 2 Testimonial Prompts (downloadable at the end of this article) OR
      2. Explicitly address an SEL Advocacy Point (outlined below - choose one of the bullet points to address) OR
      3. Both!
    3. Call to Action - choose at least one
      1. Enroll in a music class
      2. Contact your administrator or school board
      3. Donate to the music boosters
      4. Write a letter to the editor
      5. Share a social media graphic and/or hashtag
    4. Remember: the ultimate goal is making a compelling case for why the audience should take action that will benefit your music program.
  3.  Distribution
    1. Different methods of distribution will require different approaches. Remember to work smarter, not harder - plan your content distribution in such a way that it can be maximized for multiple platforms and repurposed for several years. Consider what time of content you've received and what platforms would fit best. 
    2. For the ease of social media sharing, consider keeping videos under 60 seconds. They can always be edited together to create longer content for sites like YouTube. Consider one long video for testimonials from the class of 2021, or from the trombone section. If sharing on Facebook, consider uploading the video directly to Facebook instead of sharing a YouTube link.
    3. Besides sharing on social media, make sure it gets to those people who need to see it. Show videos at virtual music booster meetings. Email them to the families of incoming students. Have students read their written testimonials live at a school board meeting. Include them in a state of the music program address.
    4. When you share them, be sure to tag them with #AdvocacyNow so Music for All can help boost your signal! A testimony about the positive impact of music education advocates just as powerfully across America as it does in your own district. 

Once your testimonials have been shared widely, share them again.

Not right away, of course, but these are valuable pieces of content that deserve to be seen over and over again. Share different testimonials to different platforms at different times. Depending on how many you get from students, you can share one on your social media channels every few days or every few weeks. Take a look at a calendar and make sure you share them widely just before important decisions are made, like school scheduling or school board budget meetings.

Bonus: How to incorporate SEL into your advocacy strategy

Advocating for Music Education using Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

SEL represents a widely-accepted construct that administrators and policymakers at all levels value. Music teachers need to have a plan to capitalize on Musical SEL. While SEL is inherently possible in music classrooms, intentional, embedded, and sustained implementation is necessary to:

(a) maximize social and emotional benefits for students, and

(b) effectively advocate to policymakers and administrators for the value of music education utilizing SEL.

To effectively make an argument, all elements of SEL are needed. Realizing the personal/collective value of music education (self-awareness/identity), understanding how this value will be perceived by decision-makers (social-awareness/belonging), and promoting music education through advocacy (responsible decision-making/agency) culminate in a cohesive SEL process and thoughtful argument. Engaging students in this process not only lends relevance to music education’s value, but also models/teaches students these important skills while forwarding the cause for music education.

Compelling arguments for music education utilizing SEL are:

  • Purposeful integration of SEL into music education will enrich the students’ personal connection to music.
  • The relationship built between teacher and students over multiple years of instruction fosters the caring environment necessary to help build school connectedness and foster empathy.
  • The perseverance needed to dedicate oneself to musical excellence fosters resilience both in and out of the music classroom.
  • Musical creation fosters self-awareness and allows students to develop a greater sense of autonomy and emotional vocabulary.
  • The collaborative community developed in the music classroom around music-making welcomes discussions and awareness for acceptance and embracing diversity.
  • Musicians learn the necessity of personal goal-setting, self-assessment, and accountability as they develop high standards for musicianship and themselves.
  • Music education provides developmental experiences that actively allow students to practice and hone social-emotional competencies. 

SEL will be front and center for administrators and SEL can provide one solution to help our students cope, heal, and move forward through music. For more information on SEL in music education, see the Music for All Social Emotional Learning website For more information on advocating for music education utilizing SEL, see this article by Scott Edgar and Bob Morrison in Teaching Music.

Testimonials are powerful tools to recruit new students and to help state the value of your program. Below are some prompts to help students and alumni get started writing or recording testimonials of their own! Happy advocating!

Download Testimonial Project Instructions and Prompts for Students and Alumni

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Advocacy at Performances

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As a music educator, your focus is all about preparing your students for a performance. But imagine using those performances to strengthen ties with all of your stakeholders: students, parents, administrators, the school board, and your community. With a little preparation—a lot of which could be outsourced to parents and other volunteers—your performances could be the super glue that holds your program together. 

Performances are the ultimate advocacy for your program!

As Dr. John Gallagher of the New York State School Music Association suggests,

“Perform, perform, perform. It's what we do.

“The process over the product, though—however, the product being the performance, the concert, the special event—the process is what matters.

“Watching students rehearse, watching the young ones first pick up an instrument. Watch them try to understand this new foreign language, which literally it is. Music notes are just like letters, and you put different letters together, you have a word. You put different notes together, you have a measure. You put different measures together, you've got a whole piece of music—which is really a story.

“So what they're doing is learning this foreign language. They have their kinesthetic movements now where they're learning their fingerings, they're learning bowing techniques. The physicality of it. They're learning how to breathe, they're learning what their trachea does. They're learning how good posture promotes good breathing. So I think the best thing that we can do is perform.” 

Engage your parents, administration, school board, and community—all at once!

Get them in the room where it happens.

There are people at every level whose decisions affect the success of your program: prospective students, parents, administrators, and school board members. Consider adding local media contacts to that list; they can magnify your message to those who aren’t able to attend in person. Imagine being able to give all of them a positive interaction with your program—at the same time and in the same place!

Your concerts and performances give all of them an opportunity to see the product of your classroom. It’s so much easier to support something you understand. Help them help you. Make sure that your stakeholders understand what you’re teaching and more importantly, WHY you’re teaching it. Check out this inspiration from conductor and composer Jack Stamp.

Your performances are a force for good in your community. Music brings people together, regardless of their differences in other areas. Giving your administrators and school board members access to that opportunity benefits not only your program, but the administrators and school board members, as well as your community. Find small things you can ask them for; it will pave the way for successful bigger asks down the road. Ask these administrators to write a letter of welcome for your program book. Invite them to attend, and perhaps your school board members, to speak from the stage in support of your program. Psychologically, it will cement in their minds, as well as the minds of your audience, the importance of music education in your community. If they’ve just told your audience how important music education is at your concert, it’ll be much more difficult to make the decision to defund music education at the next school board meeting.

With a bit of promotion, you can fill your auditorium with community members who are likely to vote the next time there's a funding referendum for the school district. If they see your ensembles out in the community performing and delighting audiences, they'll feel like their tax dollars are well spent, even if they don't have a child in school. And don’t you think your elected school board members would love to have access to their voters, while supporting students at a heartwarming musical experience right in their own community?

Don’t just invite them to one performance, either; invite them to every performance at each level of your program! It’ll be easy for your stakeholders to see student progression if they attend elementary, middle school, AND high school performances: it’s practically like time-traveling!

Make your performance an informance!

Share programming choices and program notes with your audience. Explain what you expect students to learn from each piece. Let them know it’s not JUST about playing pretty music. You’ll earn bonus points for having your students write these blurbs and present them to your audience.

Take advantage of a captive audience

You know that parents will drop off students early for warm-ups. While they wait in the auditorium, give them something to do and something to consider while they wait.

In your program book, add advocacy materials rather than leaving parts of pages blank. Underneath the repertoire list, fill that space with The Three Brain Benefits of Musical Training, for example. We’ve collected a large selection from reputable sources here.

Deliver that same information another way! If your auditorium is equipped with a projector, show slides that demonstrate the power of music education If you feel like the messaging might be a bit too heavy-hitting, intersperse these slides with candid photos of your students. Mom, Dad, Grandma and Grandpa will be so busy watching for their students’ faces, they’ll hardly notice that they’ve learned something.

In addition, surrounded by the families of other music students, they’ll have social proof that they made a good decision when they encouraged their child to enroll in music. That auditorium may be the very room where families decide that perhaps it would be good if that student continued on to middle school and high school music. That decision may be made even easier if you have older students attend and participate in the performance. Make it easy to identify them by having them wear a tee shirt or jacket with the name of their ensemble.

Your performances are going to happen anyway. Don’t let another one slip by without juicing it for all its worth. Find ways you can slip in messages about the importance of music education to the decision-makers in your audience. As author Dan Pink writes, “To sell well is to convince someone else to part with resources—not to deprive that person, but to leave him better off in the end.” You’ll agree that selling your audience on music education leaves everyone better off in the end!

Friday, November 13, 2020

Give a State of the Music Program Address

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Each January, America prepares to receive the State of the Union address. Both houses of Congress attend, and the speech is broadcast widely. There is much pomp and circumstance.

Our Executive Branch may be onto something. They’re being proactive about spreading their message, not reactive. Think about that, and then consider how we might adapt that idea for music education.

Consider a “State of the Music Program” address. Once a year, a representative of your music or fine arts department prepares a written (and oral) report and reserves time to present the report to the school board.

Why present a State of the Music Program address?

There are so many good reasons to do this. First, you get to tell your story, your way, to decision-makers. That’s huge. Consider the alternative: someone else telling your story inaccurately and in a less-than-positive light.

The process of compiling the report will give you perspective on your achievements. You’ll get a birds-eye view of your program. Armed with that information, you’ll be able to plan for the future more efficiently.

You’ll develop relationships with the decision-makers in your community, and you never know how that may pay off. A school board member, remembering the warm fuzzies she felt when you welcomed her to a performance, may be more inclined to speak up on your behalf when budgeting.

You’ll be educating not only the school board but your own stakeholders and the community on the powerful benefits of music education. Again, you never know what that might do. Anyone who’s listening may become a music education advocate like you, and that could make big ripples for years to come.

What should the scope of this State of the Music Program address be?

Much like the president’s annual address, the report should touch on the past and future of the program, working together, and optimism. In the State of the Union address, “Presidents can advocate for policies already being considered by Congress, introduce innovative ideas, or threaten vetoes.”

While the music program is hardly in a position to threaten vetoes, it could (especially backed by their parent booster group) certainly push for policies that the school board is considering, introduce innovative ideas (new uniforms, different types of performances, or different performance venues), or provide a counter-argument to policies under consideration that would negatively impact the music department.

Who should present the State of the Music Program address?

This can be determined between the invested parties. If it’s just the band program, perhaps the band director should present it. Maybe it’s the head of the music department, or the chair of the entire fine arts department. (We wholeheartedly support, by the way, banding together with the other arts disciplines in your district for advocacy. There is significant strength in numbers!)

For best results, the report should be presented by a parent booster, perhaps a member of your music coalition (you do HAVE one, right?) or music booster group. In front of the school board, a parent carries much more weight than a teacher might. A teacher is an employee of the district and serves at the school board’s will. A parent, however, is both the consumer of the school district’s product (education for their child) and perhaps more importantly, a voter, who has the power to vote school board members out of office.

When is a good time to present the State of the Music Program address?

School boards typically begin their budgeting process a full year before it takes effect at the beginning of a new school year. There are a lot of moving parts, so it can’t hurt to get on the school board’s calendar before the process starts. If you’re looking to affect the 2023-2024 budget, for example, I’d say you may want to present the report Spring 2021. The school year is drawing to a close at that point, so it’s a good time to both reflect on the year and plan ahead.

After you present the report in person, publish it on your website so the world can see the amazing work your program is doing. That might be a written report, a video, a slideshow, or some combination thereof.

And while you’re at it, kick it upstairs. There’s no reason why you couldn’t share the report with local media, and government officials at the local, state, and national levels! If you do, you’ll not only be advocating for your own program, but you’ll be helping music programs everywhere.

Where should we present the State of the Music Program address?

Obviously, you’ll probably only get the school board’s full attendance and attention at a school board meeting. While you could simply submit the written report (which may or may not get read), an oral presentation to the full school board is much harder to ignore.

In preparation for the big night, you may want to present some or all of the report at a springtime gathering, like an end-of-the-year concert or the unveiling of next fall’s halftime show. It’ll give the presenter a chance to practice while making sure that all stakeholders (parents, students, and educators) are aware of the music department’s message and impact. It will also help your stakeholders to be well-informed, relentlessly positive advocates for your program.

How the heck do I create a State of the Music Program address?

Where to begin

Every year the NAMM Foundation collects their Best Communities for Music Education Survey. It provides a comprehensive snapshot of a music program. If you pull together all the information you’ll need to submit the survey by their deadline at the end of January, you’ll be in great shape to use that information for your “State of the Music Program” address. (Plus, you’ll be all ready to submit to be named a Best Community for Music Education!) While the data itself will probably be a bit dry, you can share it in the written report, while presenting the most dynamic information orally (as well as in written form). Consider adding graphs to illustrate data points in your favor.

Knock ’Em Dead

You may want to consider creating presentation slides of some of the most impactful points you’ll be making. Be careful not to fill each slide with multiple bullet points and clip art, though! You may want to consider tips from Nancy Duarte’s work.

Give ’Em Living, Breathing Examples

Each year at the State of the Union, the First Lady sits with a few invited guests of the President. Often, those people are used as success stories during the course of the speech. You can do the same thing by selecting a few students, alumni, or even community members who have been positively affected by your program. Bonus points if they can attend in-person at the meeting.

Maybe one of your students is a truly gifted performer, or an alumnus has gone on to attend a prestigious college or achieve fame and fortune. Maybe you even want to feature a short performance.

But don’t forget to highlight the “little” things, too—like the student who only came out of his shell after joining marching band, or the kid who was at risk of dropping out but didn’t want to miss music class. Consider asking current students and alumni to provide testimonials about their experience with your program and how they benefitted from staying involved.


One of the best ways to get someone on your side is to be generous. You give them something, and they’ll feel (often subconsciously!) indebted to you, and they’ll actively look for ways to (more than!) even the score. Hook up your administration and school board with tee shirts or other swag, accompanied by a handwritten note thanking them for their support of your program. Even if you present it to a school board member who has been —ahem— LESS than supportive of your program, being publicly thanked for their support will hopefully make them feel (again, often subconsciously!) like they have to stick with that “music supporter” label.

Are you kidding me?

This sure sounds like a lot of work, but not all of it needs to be done right away. You can build up to it. Any efforts are better than none at all. Perhaps this year, you send or hand-deliver thank-you notes, or thank the administration and school board in person at their next meeting. Next year, you can work on pulling together the data for the Best Communities for Music Education Survey. But remember, any positive exchange with the decision-makers in your community will reap positive benefits, so look for opportunities! Invite them to a performance, or on a trip. Or even just take a moment to drop them an email, thanking them for their service to the district and for their support of music education. You’ll be glad you did.

While your State of the Music Program address probably won’t be attended by members of Congress or the Joint Chiefs of Staff, it’s still a huge opportunity for you to recap each year and outline your vision. Maybe you’ll want to have members of your booster group regularly attend each school board meeting…just in case of emergency.) And no matter how it goes, at least you won’t have to endure a carefully crafted “opposition response!”


Originally posted on

Each year, your music program produces a new class of graduates. For four years, those students have dedicated their time, talents, and treasure to their music education. But their diploma doesn’t mean that their time — or their parents’ time — with your program has to end. By investing a bit of thought and effort into your alumni, you’ll reap the benefits of building a large, supportive community around your program. Don’t let these valuable relationships slip through your fingers!

Why Bother?

One more responsibility to juggle, one more hat to wear. If you build it right, though, your alumni efforts can be self-sustaining — and mostly hands-off for you! The reason your alumni and their parents are so valuable to your program is because they GET IT. They know exactly what you do and why you do it, and why music education is so important. They’ve been through it.

After four years, they know, like, trust, and thoroughly understand the value of music education, specifically your music program.

After four years, they’ve stored a lot of knowledge about your program that often isn’t tapped efficiently — or at all.

After four years, they are already in the HABIT of contributing to your organization. Take advantage of that! Habits can be a strong ally in this situation.

After four years, they’ve developed a strong emotional connection to your program and the people in it. Don’t be afraid to tug on those heartstrings to get your alumni to help bolster your music program for years to come!

Getting Started

The first step is finding a volunteer or two to spearhead these efforts. Key skills include talking to other alumni (you want someone who can really work a room!), as well as handling administrative and communications tasks. Once you’ve found the right people for the job, here’s where to start.

Make a Note of It

As soon as possible, start collecting data. That may sound cold and clinical, but it’s the first step to maintaining a warm relationship with your alums. You can‘t have a relationship if you can’t find these people, so start to build systems to collect this information so you can keep in touch with them from here on out.

There are a lot of options available to you, including sophisticated donor management systems, but you can start with a plain old spreadsheet. Here are some of the fields you should include:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone (home & mobile for optional text updates from a service like
  • Email
    Whether they’re students of your program, or parents (they might be both, so build in that possibility from the beginning!)
  • Years attended or active and/or their graduation year
  • Instrument(s) played: this is helpful if you ever recruit an alumni band, or for fundraising (see below)

You may also want to make note of the following information:

Who’s your employer?

Many employers provide matching funds when an employee donates to a nonprofit. Or if your program solicits sponsorships, having someone with contacts “on the inside” can be invaluable to creating the perfect partnership.

How would you like to be contacted?

This is a great way to find out what channels your alumni prefer to use, so be sure to ask how they would like to be contacted by you, and how often they’d like to hear from you. Any unwanted communications are considered spam by the recipient, and you don’t want your information to fall into that category. Some may want only emails, while others may want to hear from you on Tumblr or check out YouTube videos, and yet another might want to receive a text message anytime your group performs nearby.

Make It Frictionless

When you collect this information, make it easy on your alumni. If it’s difficult, or a pain to do, people won’t do it, even if they fully support what you do. For this year’s graduates, it might just mean exporting their existing data into your new spreadsheet. For others, it might mean having them handwrite their information onto a form at your next performance or event. It might be you calling the last phone number you have for them, and asking them for this information over the phone. Or perhaps it’s a link shared on social media to a web page where they can fill out the information online.

What Will You Say, and When?

Based on the information you collect and the resources available to you, decide how you’ll continue to communicate with your alumni going forward. Email? Social media? Text message? Snail mail? Phone?

Whichever methods you choose, set up a plan to communicate regularly and consistently. Maybe a quarterly newsletter is sufficient. Or perhaps during marching season when so much is happening, your alumni would like monthly or even weekly updates!

Ask and You Shall Receive

Once you set up your communications plan, find ways to keep your alumni involved. Continue to ask them for their contributions on a regular basis. That might be as simple as asking them to post a photo for you to feature on #ThrowbackThursday, or to spend time training a new parent on the volunteer position that they used to hold.

If they’re local, have them actively advocate for your music program. The word of a tax-paying alum goes a long way in front of the school board. Alumni are close enough to your program to be credible sources, but not so close that people will assume that they will benefit directly from the program. This is what makes them perfect advocates. In fact, you should consider encouraging your alumni to run for school board!

Sometimes parents are so grateful for what music did for their own child that they’d continue to sacrifice financially so that another child can also benefit from your music program. They could sponsor a student individually, contribute toward expenses, or spearhead a scholarship program. Have your alumni contribute toward giving students the same great experience that they had in your program. In return, invite them to attend your performances, or drop in on a rehearsal.

Loyalty Can Pay Off

Think of ways that you can utilize the loyalty of your alumni for the benefit of your music program. Consider challenging your crosstown rival.

We all know that there are often friendly section rivalries, so take advantage of those as well. Challenge the brass to take on the woodwinds, or high brass against low brass. See which section can raise the most money in exchange for bragging rights. Or if you know you need a new sousaphone, for example, you may want to target low brass alumni who would be more likely to contribute to that fundraising campaign.

Make It Easy and Fun!

Consider providing a menu of donation opportunities. It’s so much more satisfying to donate when donors know exactly what their dollars will buy. For example, a $10 donation buys an incoming freshman a band camp t-shirt. Fifty bucks buys five cans of spray paint for the props. Seventy-five dollars covers the cost of a tank of gas for the equipment truck. Or $1,000 pays for one school bus for a local competition.

Let Them Get Their Hands Dirty

So many involved alumni parents feel heartbroken when their child is leaving the program, and they may feel like they’ll have to give up volunteering for you. Let them know that they can (and should!) continue to contribute and volunteer.

Have former students come back and volunteer. You spent four long years showing them how it’s done, so let them pay it forward. They can be teaching assistants during band camp, or they can fill in volunteer spots at events while current parents watch their students perform.

(IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: Please make sure not to allow alumni to crowd out current parents from volunteer opportunities. While it’s tempting to go with the long-time volunteer that’s tried, true and reliable, choosing an alumni parent to volunteer over current parents just teaches an entire generation of current parents that their help isn’t needed. To ensure the strength of your program now and for years to come, you need to engage as many current and alumni parents and volunteers as possible!)

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Music Education During COVID-19

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“A global pandemic is not the way you’d want to force music education to modernize,” explains Philip Brown, choral director at Jefferson High School in Bloomington, Minn. “But the new tools we’re using may prove very engaging.”

COVID-19 has caused profound changes to school music programs, with technology taking on elevated importance. Tools like videoconferencing, interactive software and Wenger’s active acoustic technology are helping music educators survive and even thrive in dynamic circumstances.

Love of Music Motivates

Through these challenging times, the love of music and music-making keeps educators and students motivated. After the spring 2020 shutdown and summer vacation, a variety of learning models are in place this fall. More than 70 percent of music educators Wenger surveyed indicated rehearsals had resumed, with distancing modifications. However, nearly half the districts were undecided about the future of performances. Whatever the circumstances, affection for music – its creation and appreciation – is a common, unifying bond.

For example, the desire to perform just one minute of a Mozart string quartet inspired orchestra students at Wayzata High School in Plymouth, Minn., -- in a modified hybrid model this fall – to accomplish this remote feat using the free Acappella app. The four students layered their parts together, creating a basic sense of ensemble music-making that satisfied their longing while “really challenging them” and raising their level of personal accountability to each other, according to their director, Mark Gitch.

Gaining Empathy & Choices

Altered expectations are also stretching music educators, while fostering their greater understanding and creativity in engaging students.

“Certainly I’ve learned a lot of things not to do,” says Matt Weidner, band director at Gunnison Valley High School in Gunnison, Utah. “I’ve become more empathetic to different types of family situations, realizing that not everyone’s in the same boat. Each person’s facing different kinds of stress with themselves, their homes and families.”

Choir director Michael Gutierrez at Firebaugh High School, Firebaugh, Calif., initially considered the pandemic as a threat to his program’s survival. “This fall I realized I needed to focus on the social and emotional learning of my students and individual music-making,” he says.

Gutierrez accepted that some students did not want to sing at home, or may not feel comfortable doing so. To keep students engaged, he surveyed them about musical skills they wanted to learn besides singing. After considering their input, he let them choose from four paths: 1) Digital music with Soundtrap online software; 2) Songwriting using Soundtrap and Google Docs; 3) Keyboard, using extra keyboards the school had; and 4) Voice, for students who wanted to focus on singing. He concludes, “I wanted my students to have useful experiences expressing themselves through their own music making, while keeping them emotionally connected to the program.”

Shifting Expectations, Motivation

As today’s educators modify their expectations, they’re also shifting lesson delivery. Teaching via videoconferencing is “far from optimal” according to Gitch. “We will cover less content with fewer performance opportunities, but what we can teach, we can teach pretty well.”

Varying internet speeds make creating an ensemble sound impossible. Rather, the focus is more on individual attention, which Gitch considers one benefit. “Last spring’s one-on-one lessons over Zoom exposed a lot of students -- for not understanding rhythm, for example,” he recalls.

“Recording yourself to self-assess is one thing, but it’s completely different to record yourself for a duet, knowing someone else is relying on your accuracy,” says Gitch. Students use apps like Acapella or GarageBand for these assignments. He believes that this realization -- “I’m not quite as good as I thought I was” – positively motivated all his students.

Enabling Self-Direction

For Weidner’s highly motivated students, tools like SmartMusic and Essential Elements Interactive enabled them to greatly accelerate their own personal development during the shutdown. “Those who worked hard online last spring developed into really fine musicians,” he states, adding that some likely finished last school year stronger on their own, without peers holding them back.

To inspire students to practice, band director Natalia Albacete at West Lake Middle School in Humble, Texas, likes Tonara software, which is installed on each student’s computer or smart phone. Tonara listens to them practicing; students earn points based on how long they’re actually playing. A customizable leaderboard tracks students’ practice times; she awards prizes to high performers. “The system creates a nice community and lots of competition for my students; it’s pretty cool,” comments Albacete. Tonara compares simple student recordings to an uploaded teacher example and provides feedback about alignment with the metronome and tone accuracy.

Developing Potential

A number of other tools – both new and updated – are helping music educators. Brown’s students each recently received a Music First account, which includes various software. “It’s helping us maintain four essential elements: vocal warmups, sight reading, music enrichment and also rehearsing a few songs,” he explains. Brown believes the website has great potential for tracking individual progress and engaging students, better enticing them to learn and stay focused.

Weidner is using Essential Elements Interactive for his middle school beginners, featuring professionals playing the parts in the students’ method books. There are 5-6 different background accompaniments – piano, pop, reggae, etc. – so students experience playing different music styles.

He also uses the same Canvas online learning platform from graduate school several years earlier. “We can easily set up recordings for the students to turn in on Canvas,” Weidner explains. “If the kids need to hear a recording of us playing, I can post a recording online so all the students can evaluate it.”

Game-Changing Acoustical Tool

For these teachers, another tool is proving helpful: Wenger’s virtual acoustic technology. Installed in a rehearsal space or practice room, it can electronically simulate nine different performance environments, helping accelerate student learning and concert preparation.

“This technology helps teach my students that every environment requires a different kind of performance,” says Jacquelyn Vondette, choir director at West Lake Middle School. Whether a vocal musician or instrumentalist, students hone their critical-listening skills while learning to balance and blend their sound with other musicians in the ensemble.

Under today’s hybrid’s learning models, having an acoustically supportive rehearsal space is especially valuable with fewer students in school. “In high school choirs, there’s power in numbers, says Kalle Akkerman, choir director at Austin High School, Austin, Minn. The fewer students he has in class, the more timid they are as singers.

By bolstering the sound, the Wenger active acoustic system provides more confidence to smaller groups that aren’t necessarily comfortable singing alone. “Now it’s like everyone is singing in their own personal shower,” he notes. System microphones pick up any sound in the room, modify it using digital signal processing technology and broadcast it through the array of speakers in the walls and ceiling – all in real time.

With digital record and playback capabilities, the Wenger active acoustic system also helps create a full ensemble sound that’s not physically possible due to the pandemic, scheduling conflicts, or any other reason.

“Now we can combine our beginner band classes without physically combining them,” explains Tami Goss, band director at Bridge City High School in Bridge City, Texas. “We record different instrument sections, like trumpets and clarinets together, and other sections play along later. This makes concert preparation much easier and I think our concerts turn out better too.”

Listening to Learn

Along with enabling larger-group “virtual rehearsals”, the integrated digital record/playback capability offers other important benefits such as enabling immediate feedback and self-critique.

“Self-assessment is one of the big analytical concepts we’re working on,” explains Vondette. “As teachers, our goal is for students eventually not to need us – to develop their own skills. Being able to listen to themselves through a high-quality system helps build that part of their brain and analytical ability.”

Her students love the instant gratification of hearing themselves perform and are able to tune and adjust as needed. “I can tell them all day and night: Your vowels need to be taller, Your breath support needs to be stronger, and other concepts,” Vondette adds. “But if they don’t hear the difference, they’re not going to adapt.”

Even before Wenger’s Virtual Acoustic Environment (VAE®) technology was adapted for large rehearsal or performance spaces, it was first developed for individual practice rooms. The patented technology can be incorporated in Wenger’s modular, reloctable Soundlok® Sound-Isolation Rooms or even retrofit into existing built-in practice rooms, called a Studio VAE® system.

Recordings of individual practice sessions or ensemble rehearsals can be easily downloaded for online distribution to students, to support their at-home practice. Finally, the technology’s key benefits also help satisfy the National Music Standards for K-12 education, related to students’ ability to create, perform and respond to music.

Anticipating Creativity

As everyone eagerly anticipates a “new normal” in music education and society overall, Akkerman is also looking ahead to the creativity these unusual times will likely inspire.

“Technology has helped us be together, and also to make and share music, but what kind of music is being created now?” he wonders. “All music is a reflection of a time and place. In ten years, I will be excited to look back at what’s come out of the pandemic; I’m sure people will still be writing music about this time.”

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

MFA's Impact - Bill Galvin

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Our new Music for All Impact series will introduce you to some of the incredible advocates of Music for All as they share their stories of Music for All’s impact on them and why there were compelled to pay it forward to ensure that others feel that impact as well. In today’s spotlight, we are thrilled to introduce you to Bill Galvin.

Bill Galvin Photo 3

How did you become involved with Music for All?

My first exposure to Music for All, then Bands of America, was in the mid-1980s when I took the band from New Brighton High School to a regional marching band competition in Pittsburgh. In retrospect, we weren’t very good and we didn’t do all that well but the students were excited about their participation and I was challenged to improve my teaching and improve the band.

What attracted you to the cause?

Early on I was simply looking for a new experience, hence our participation in that initial regional. I had been teaching over ten years I was looking to grow as a teacher and to provide growth opportunities for my students. I found that in Bands of America.

What is your favorite Music for All memory?

Wow. The memories come flooding back. As a teacher, there are too many to enumerate but I have always had a soft spot for young people achieving, accomplishing, and being successful. Those moments kept me fresh and challenged throughout my career. As a parent, the opportunity to experience events, and subsequent successes, with my son and daughter during their high school years are lasting and valued impressions.

Bill Galvin Photo 1

What impact has music education had on your life?

I can’t imagine doing anything different with my life, music was oxygen for me, and sharing quality music with my students – educating – provided daily goals and expectations.

What does Music for All's mission mean to you?

The Music for All mission statement of “providing positively life-changing experiences” sets an expectation for everyone, staff, volunteers, participants – it is inescapable. It holds me, us, accountable for all we do relative to our participation. Today, more than ever, we need accountability across society and the lessons learned through Music for All provide the perfect example for all of us, and most importantly, our young people.

What compelled you to be a donor?

Being a donor is a small opportunity to give back to an organization that has provided so many lasting memories and positive growth lessons for me, my children, and my students. It pleases me to know that in some small manner I am making a difference. My continued involvement in Music for All events post-retirement enables me to witness first-hand the positive influences being created for students and teachers alike.

In your opinion, what is the most important work that Music for All does?

First and foremost, Music for All advocates for music education, the growth of the company over the years in that regard has been exceptional. Additionally, they continue to raise the standard for excellence in teaching and to espouse ideals for professionalism within the teaching profession.

What do you wish people knew about Music for All?

Every decision by the staff and advisors is made after thoughtful consideration relative to the mission statement, the best interest of the students, teachers and parents is always paramount in every decision. The Music for All staff is incredibly dedicated, they work tirelessly to ensure every program, event and experience is presented at a very high level.

Bill Galvin Photo 2

What would you tell someone who is thinking about donating?

Do it! It will make you feel good and you will be nurturing young people in the process. My years of involvement with Music for All have illustrated the need for donations. The programs offered simply cannot exist on “user fees” alone, your donation makes a positive difference.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

MFA's Impact - Breanne St. Martin

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Our new Music for All Impact series will introduce you to some of the incredible advocates of Music for All as they share their stories of Music for All’s impact on them and why there were compelled to pay it forward to ensure that others feel that impact as well. In today’s spotlight, we are thrilled to introduce you to Breanne St. Martin.

BreannePhoto4Breanne pictured left with a fellow swag.

How did you become involved with Music for All?

My high school required our band/color guard members to attend the Music for All Summer Symposium in order to hold a leadership position. I attended my first Summer Symposium the summer before my junior year, and loved it so much I went back the next summer too! And then I came back for four more summers to serve as a member of the SWAG team :)

What attracted you to the cause?

That first summer I wanted to be a color guard captain so I wanted to attend camp for the leadership skills, but I quickly learned that camp was so much more than that. I kept coming back to summer symposium (twice as a camper and 4 times a SWAG) because every summer I was given opportunities to grow as a human, as a performer, and as a member of a team. 

What is your favorite Music for All memory?

There are honestly too many to pick just one. My favorites span from my first opportunity to spin with and meet members of a DCI color guard (Blue Coats 2007), to my first humbling day of SWAG team building, to watching a camper I taught become a SWAG herself, and of course Tutu Tuesdays!

Breanne Photo 1

What impact has music education had on your life?

I will always cherish the lessons I learned from music/marching band, attending the Summer Symposium gave me opportunities in leadership beginning in high school that extended far beyond a football field. From there it opened up doors for me to march 3 summers in DCI and those experiences taught me so much about myself, about being independent, and some major life skills including budgeting and time management.

What does Music for All's mission mean to you?

The mission statement to create, provide, and expand positively life-changing experiences through music was actually my life between the years 2007-2015. From the moment I was a camper to current day, the most cherished memories and experiences I had all in one way or another come back to MFA. 

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What compelled you to be a donor?

I wanted to make sure that the “for all” in the mission statement came true. It can be expensive to participate in a marching band or experiences like the Summer Symposium, and I will never be able to fully give back any amount equal to what I got out of my time with Music for All. 

In your opinion, what is the most important work that Music for All does?

It brings students from all across the country (and the world!) together to create opportunities for them to share their passion with others who love music just as much as they do. 

What do you wish people knew about Music for All?

Music for All as an organization is so much more than marching/concert band, winds, strings, color guard, and drumline. Music for All is an organization that takes students and provides them with opportunities and connections that will change and mold their lives for many years to come.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about donating?

Do it! You have the ability to create a positively life-changing experience for someone and there is nothing more rewarding than knowing that you’re able to provide that.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

MFA's IMPACT: Ric and Jeannette Coons

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Our new Music for All Impact series will introduce you to some of the incredible advocates of Music for All as they share their stories of Music for All’s impact on them and why there were compelled to pay it forward to ensure that others feel that impact as well. In today’s spotlight, we are thrilled to introduce you to Ric and Jeannette Coons.

 Ric Coons Photo 3Ric and Jeannette distributing "Team Texas" shirts before CTJ's 2019 Grand Nationals trip.

How did you become involved with Music for All?

My first introduction to Music for All (MFA) was in 2011. Our oldest daughter was a freshman guard member in the Claudia Taylor Johnson H.S. band program. The program competed in Houston and made their first trip to Grand Nationals in Indy and my wife and I followed the band there to watch them compete and make finals. That was when I realized that this was far different than the marching bands I grew up with in the 80’s in California.

What attracted you to the cause?

Music was a very important part of growing up for me. It was what kept me engaged in school from 4th grade through high school and taught me life lessons that I have used in my adult life and career for the past 35 years. The more I learned about MFA outside of just the marching arts with the Summer Symposium and National Festival as well as the music advocacy programs that work to ensure that every child has access and opportunity to have music education as part of their scholastic environment, I felt the need to support it.

What is your favorite Music for All memory?

While there are many, the 2019 Grand National Championships were special to my wife and me. We attended in 2011 with our freshman daughter competing. We returned in 2019 with our freshman son competing and our adult daughter getting to experience the event as a spectator cheering for her brother. Announcing our program as the Esprit de Corps award winner – it just reminds us of the lessons that our kids are learning as part of their programs and the life value it brings to our kids and families.

What impact has music education had on your life?

Friendships that we have made in our programs, as well as in programs from across the country, have been amazing. The process of learning to be a part of something bigger than yourself has been impactful, as well as learning the passion and dedication required to reach a purpose or goal.

What does Music for All's mission mean to you?

The statement of providing “positively life-changing experiences for students” means a great deal to my wife and me. I experienced this growing up and I have seen it with my children and so many children that have had the access to music education in middle school and high school.

Ric Coons Photo 1Ric, Jeannette, and their son at the Urban Farm for the San Antonio Food Bank with the Claudia Taylor Johnson Band 

What compelled you to be a donor?

We have seen music programs and fine arts across the country lose funding over the years. My wife and I have seen the value of music education and we are fortunate enough to have a phenomenal group of music educators that support our kids. We have been fortunate enough to be in a position to support our middle and high school programs here locally. But we also feel the need to support the mission of MFA outside our local community and are proud to do so.

In your opinion, what is the most important work that Music for All does?

Music advocacy – your ability to bring so many national sponsors together and provide outstanding opportunities for our kids to perform in such a positive way that will touch their lives forever. They carry that with them and it leads them to want to give back so that others that do not have access can be supported.

What do you wish people knew about Music for All?

There is no other organization in the country that provides the ability to bring young people together for the sole purpose of promoting the musical arts in a positive manner and in world-class venues and that promotes access to music education within our youth communities - from BOA events to the honor brands that allow individuals from across the country to grow together. MFA uses its platform to support areas that do not have access to music education.

Do you have an anecdote/story about Music for All or a Music for All event that really moved you?

Grand Nationals 2019 – I arranged a gathering with parents/alumni from 8 different bands that we have gotten to know from across Texas – and Avon, our honorary Texas band after their 2017 appearance. While we had some great conversations with the MFA team prior to that event, the event was just to watch the live feed of the announcements of the finalists. Eric Martin, MFA’s President and CEO at that time, took time out of what has to be one of his busiest days to speak to the members that were assembled to do a Q&A on the direction of the organization. It was touching that he would take the time to join us.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about donating?

Look at the entire scope of the organization, its mission, and the performance of that mission over the years. If you have a family that has been involved in music education and have seen what it has meant to them, then reach out to support this organization. It is a worthy mission and our kids across the country need the arts.

Ric Coons Photo 2The Coons Family

Monday, September 21, 2020

MFA's IMPACT: Dr. Christopher Protho

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Our new Donor Spotlight series will introduce you to some of the incredible advocates of Music for All as they share their stories of Music for All’s impact on them and why there were compelled to pay it forward to ensure that others feel that impact as well. In the second spotlight of our series below, we are thrilled to introduce you to Dr. Christopher Protho.

Chris and Eric EditedPictured left to right: Eric Martin, President & CEO Emeritus of MFA, and Dr. Christopher Protho

How did you become involved with Music for All?

I started when I volunteered in the bus parking lot at the Morgantown, WV Regional (known as the Eastern Regional) in 1990. As a freshman in the WVU band, it was not like I had much of a choice. I had no idea what Bands of America was. I barely understood that marching bands competed against each other. 

The real connection came in 1991, at the end of my freshman year. I was a few minutes late for the Wind Symphony’s commencement rehearsal in May. I was asked to see Dave Satterfield (WVU Asst. Director of Bands and Cadets staff) after rehearsal. Dave was generally responsible for discipline, so I spent the rehearsal preparing myself for a well-deserved tongue-lashing. Instead, he asked me if I could work at a camp in Wisconsin, the 1991 BOA Summer Workshop [now the MFA Summer Symposium] held in Whitewater, WI. BOA needed a clarinet SWAG to fill a last-minute vacancy. Just like that, I was an 18-year-old SWAG who had never been to Wisconsin, never worked with so many students, and (like most of the world) didn’t know what SWAG meant. (Heck, I didn’t know that SWAG was an acronym and I really didn’t know how special it was to be one.) In those days, the whole camp participated as the “Pick ‘n Save Band of America” in a Milwaukee parade. 1400+ kids marching in an enormous band in the rain. The band was so big that, although the picture covers what looks like a mile, the whole band’s not in the picture because the back half of the guard hadn’t turned a corner. An old friend of mine still has my red SWAG shirt. I worked Grand Nationals that year and my thank you note was hand-signed by all FIVE staff members.

 Protho 1991 SWAG

What attracted you to the cause?

The people and the scale of the experience. I met so many great people – students, SWAGs, volunteers, staff, clinicians. It felt then (and feels now) that there’s this giant positive energy created through music - all moving in the same direction. Everyone wants to help; everyone wants to contribute; everyone wants to get their own piece of MFA awesomeness by giving some away to someone else. Everyone was helped to feel and be special – every band on the field, every kid at camp, every fan, every pit dad. It has never been just about the official-looking people – kids in their uniforms or judges and staff in their polo shirts. At an Orlando regional, there was a woman who had pulled up a chair to a pond outside the stadium. I remember sitting next to her, listening to her talk about her life’s journey while she was fishing, yes, fishing outside the stadium. It felt like that in 1990 and every year and every event since.

As for the scale, I am beyond amazed at the replication of this feeling and this experience. It is often said that it would be great if something positive could be bottled. Marching Bands of America, Bands of America, and Music for All have found the magic to do just that. In the last thirty years, I have worked in about 50 or 60 venues, from tiny high school fields to NFL stadiums and complete college campuses. The magic is not just in the mission; it’s in the tens of thousands in the MFA family that replicate the mission everywhere for everyone.

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What is your favorite Music for All memory?

Most MFA events I attend are part of the fall marching championships, so most of my stories come from that part of the year, but I’ve had great memories at the Summer Symposium, the MFA National Festival, and several events that have evolved into other student opportunities in my years between BOA’s 15th Anniversary and MFA’s 45th Anniversary. NOT FAIR. This would be like picking my favorite child. (Editor’s note: Chris provided ten amazing memories, I chose five of my favorite stories he shared for you all to read here.)

5. Atlanta, GA – While problem-solving at the loading dock of the Georgia Dome, the Western Carolina University marching band walked by. From out of the mass of WCU humanity, I hear, “Hey, Mr. Protho, is that you?” A student from my middle school moved from Pennsylvania to North Carolina, finished high school, had joined “The Pride of the Mountains,” and six or seven years later, we unfathomably found one another in one of the most unlikely places.

4. Charleston, WV – Due to a late scheduling change, the Morgantown, WV Regional was moved to Charleston. Additionally, we needed to do the regional without a volunteer site staff (as the WVU “Pride of West Virginia” stayed in Morgantown for the rescheduled game). It became an “all-hands-on-deck” event. We ran that show with about 15 people, with everyone chipping in wherever they could, including Scott McCormick, BOA President, selling programs until he threw his back out and Eric Martin, BOA’s new Vice President, guiding bands from warm-up to the stadium (across a set of active railroad tracks). 

3. Indianapolis, IN – At the RCA Dome pre-Lucas Oil Stadium renovation, buses and trucks needed clearance from a BOA volunteer (designated “Check Point 1”) before driving around the stadium to unload on the tarmac and at the loading docks. One snowy Grand Nationals, I was working on the tarmac as a form of “traffic cop” to help Check Point 1 know when there was sufficient space for the next band to come around. I got a radio call from Jenny Ridge at Check Point 1: “Chris, there’s a band that has to unload NOW!”  I replied, “What is so urgent?”  Jenny said, “You’ll see.”  A truck came around the stadium with virtually no roof.  It had hit a train trestle that was too low and that had peeled the top of the truck back like a sardine can, allowing it to snow on the band’s equipment.

2. Massillon, OH – During this show I was assisting in keeping trophies and medallions straight during awards ceremonies. One year, Mars High School won Class A and was, therefore, entitled to medallions, including medallions presented on-field during the Finals Awards Ceremony. As the director at Mars Middle School, I was extraordinarily proud of my former students. As I prepared to hand several medallions to a VIP to be presented to Mars’s drum majors, I was asked at the last second to present the medallions myself. My pride for my students went off the chart as I had the honor of looking my past students in the eye as they received the highest honor the band had ever received. (Just writing about this moment has me in tears.) My photo of that moment is one of my greatest treasures.

1. Indianapolis, Indiana - I was serving as Contest Director at Grand Nationals and was taking a break, having a conversation with Eric Martin (MFA’s previous President & CEO). A reporter from a major national newspaper entered the room for a scheduled interview with Eric. As I tried to do the polite thing by gathering my belongings so the two could have the room to themselves, Eric invited me to stay. I listened to Eric go further than share a recitation of what MFA does; he shared the core of the mission, why we do what we do, and how what we do impacts people, schools, communities. It wasn’t an interview; it was a sermon. It was an MFA TedTalk.  After decades of seeing, hearing, and feeling the embodiment of love and care through what was known (at the time) as Music for All, I thought I understood it. After listening to Eric, I instantly knew I had a way to go to really know what was going on and why. It was like climbing a mountain, looking up, and realizing I had thousands of feet left to climb.

What impact has music education had on your life?

I am who I am and how I am through music education. Through mentorships lasting seconds to decades, I have learned my part in the lives of young people, the people that support them, and all the people whose paths cross mine over time.  Learning to play the clarinet has, over the years, become a means to an end.  First, I learned to play, then I learned to lead, to follow, and eventually, through music education, learned what my path was meant to be. Internalizing the process of developing and sharing artistry and creativity with others is something that I no longer need an instrument or a baton to achieve.

What does Music for All's mission mean to you? 

I’d like to address this question rather literally. For grammar fans, the mission has two broad parts: the verbs “create, provide, and expand” and the noun “positively life-changing experiences”. For some time, I focused exclusively on the noun. I gave so much thought to what “positively life-changing experiences” look to our larger music community.  I have come to believe that understanding the noun through J.K. Rowling’s adaptation of Louis Armstrong’s famous quote, “If you have to ask, you’ll never know.” Just picking up an instrument, listening to the radio or your local symphony, coming to an event, or saying “thank you” to a volunteer takes one down the path to a positively life-changing experience. 

The verbs have had a more profound effect on me lately. It speaks to the universality of human connection. Creation, provision, and expansion are all methods to extend the beauty of music into the universe, even that little piece of the universe we get to call ours, whether it’s associated with a mascot, identified with zip code, or measured in light-years. The mission is beautifully interminable. There is no end to expressing and serving the mission; there is no point at which one can say, “OK, I’m done. I’ve achieved the mission. I can sit down now.”

What compelled you to be a donor? 

Donating is a small act of giving back and helping to make the creation, provision, and expansion expressed in the mission statement happen. Since I was a toddler, MBA, BOA, and MFA, have continued to find ways to extend the beauty of music into universes large and small, into genres new and traditional, into communities seeking to maximize the excellence to which they have become accustomed and communities who require assistance and support to take the next step toward excellence.

To the friends and family who haven’t been on my journey, it could be easy to misconstrue our relationship. “Chris, they put you on an airplane and send you to here or there and you get to see the best bands in the country and rub elbows with the most talented music educators.” It can sound like Music for All has given me so much over the years. Through one lens, that may be true. What is far more true, is that while I’ve had experiences at the events I attend, is that those experiences cause one to give that experience to one more person, one more community. If my few meager dollars can make that happen, then all the moments will have been worth it.

In your opinion, what is the most important work that Music for All does? 

Persist. Making MFA’s various events happen on simply the logistical level (that leads to the personal and emotional levels) requires an inordinate amount of time, effort, and resources. Being blessed to have had opportunities to serve in leadership at events from time to time, incrementally learning what happens behind the curtain to allow the magic to happen in front of it is truly mind-altering. Without time, effort, and resources, events simply don’t happen. MFA has been able to put those pieces together for generations, and hopefully for generations more. Your homework should be to go to the MFA website’s staff page to see the names and faces of those people you may never see and may never meet but are indispensable to MFA’s events. Imagine Grand Nationals or the Summer Symposium being planned by this small, dedicated group ranging from interns to executives. That’s where we come in as donors and volunteers.  Whenever and wherever you can add to the pools of time, effort, and resources that allow MFA to persist in order to reach out to just one more child, one more program, one more community.

What do you wish people knew about Music for All?

How few full-time employees actually work for MFA. (See the homework assignment above.) For years, I thought there were hundreds; dozens would be generous. 

Do you have an anecdote/story about Music for All or a Music for All event that really moved you? 

At the 1991 Grand Nationals, the process for presenting medals is different than it is now. Then, volunteers individually presented a medallion to each student. As I was presenting a class champion medallion to a young lady from (what was then) Plymouth Centennial High School, they were announced as the National Champions. She removed her hat so I could get a medallion around her neck. As the announcement was made, she broke out in tears as I presented her medallion. I wanted to cry with her.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about donating?

Think about the next step MFA can take because of your donation. Over the years, MFA has developed different dimensions to meet its mission, expanding its geographic footprint, recognizing more student-musicians in more musical genres, extending its reach into underserved communities, recognizing the impact of supporting the growth of young educators, and more. Your donation helps MFA take that next step and helps you take that step along with MFA.

Join Dr. Protho in making a gift in support of Music for All's impact here.


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Changing Trends in Collegiate Music Recruiting

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Students with an entrepreneurial vision, songwriting and composing skills, are as highly recruited as those with advanced music theory knowledge. Students are becoming more aware of the many career paths available to them in the music entertainment industry: movies, television programs and commercials, podcasts, video games, streaming content, and recordings. And high schools are finding they need to incorporate instruction in composition, orchestration, arranging, and songwriting into class curriculum to help the student make college and career decisions. So what does that mean for the scholastic music educators?

Scholastic music educators--choral directors, band directors, and orchestra directors—now need to incorporate arranging and songwriting in their curriculum from early grades through high school to give their students a competitive edge in the collegiate application and audition process. Students with these skills are in high demand, and in fact, several Schools of Music over the past five years have offered scholarships to songwriters and rappers because of their potential ability to bring copyright and publishing royalties into their coffers. Several universities have stated that a student’s advanced placement theory credits are weighted less in the admission decision process than a songwriting submission, especially if the song follows proper song structure.

Additionally, many School of Music and Music Department recruiters are looking for students with an entrepreneurial mindset. Recruiters have realized the US media and entertainment industry is the largest in the world and there are now over 20 colleges or universities offering an undergraduate degree in Music Entrepreneurship. At $717 billion (in 2019) in the US alone, music represented 1/3 of global media and entertainment. This industry includes motion pictures, television programs and commercials, broadcasts, radio, video games, and ancillary services and products. In 2019, the music industry was ranked 11th in the US economy and it is predicted the industry will reach more than $825 billion by 2023.

Collegiate music education is a business. Colleges, universities, and conservatories must make a profit. A growing trend among many Music Departments is to have publishing and recording companies within the department, where they publish new music from professors, students, and alumni, as well as educational resources and curriculums. Music Departments also depend on tuition and student fees, such as lab fees and tutoring fees. And they sell services—master classes, camps, symposiums, and ensemble weekends—as well as showcasing seniors in musical theatre before Broadway producers, opera singers in New York for talent agencies, and instrumentalists before the American Symphony League.

The face of collegiate recruiting has changed and will, in light of COVID-19 and its repercussions, continue to evolve. Scholastic music educators will find themselves with new challenges as they strive to help students and their parents navigate the collegiate music application and audition process. is the premier site for resources for teachers, parents, and students to help in this new, evolving world. And we are proud to announce that Eric Martin, former CEO of Music for All, has joined as its President. Mr. Martin and Randall Bayne, founder and CEO, are committed to assisting students, along with their teachers and parents, navigate these ever-changing and somewhat treacherous waters to find the scholarship opportunities best suited for their career goals. Visit today and explore the possibilities and connections available to help you and your students, especially during this challenging year.

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