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Texas Gets It

Mike Lawson • Archives • August 5, 2009

Texas gets it. When you add up the facts, the results point to the fact that Texas most likely has the most support for music education of any state in the nation. The state boasts the largest independent music educators association, the TMEA, as well as the largest bandmasters group, the Texas Bandmasters. We regularly receive subscription cards from Texas schools indicating enormous numbers of music students compared to other states across the country. However, there are some numbers that don’t seem to add up. For example, “Texas’ investment in the arts is approximately $0.18 per citizen placing it near the bottom of all 56 U.S. states and territories. The national average is $1.44 per citizen.” (Department of Education, The Texas Cultural Trust). Texas also ranks 29th in the country in teacher pay according to the American Federation of Teachers 2007-08 survey.

So the question everyone is asking is why and how does this state have such strong support for music, especially with the low level of spending per student? There is no clear answer, but only some hypothetical explanations that have been tossed around in recent years. One suggestion is that Texas has such a strong culture of football that, rural communities, if you are not on the football team, you want to support the team by being involved in the marching band. Others suggest that folks in Texas think “big,” and that the large marching band sizes reflect this. However, the more likely explanation is the strong cooperative support from well-run organizations such as TMEA, TBA, Texas Coalition for Quality Arts Education, the Texas Commission for the Arts, The Texas Music Project, The Association of Texas Small School Bands, and many others. These groups, along with a culture of strong parent organizations and potent college music programs, make Texas a tremendous power in the field of music education.

At the recent Texas Bandmasters show, I met with Ross Boothman; the VP of the band division of the TMEA. He indicated that Texas is one of the few states that has a viable set of standards and competitions from the University Interscholastic League. Per the UIL Web site, the “UIL is designed to support and enrich the teaching of music as an integral component of the public school curriculum in the state of Texas.” Additionally, TMEA has moved their offices to Austin in order to have greater access to the state legislature, so they can be proactive in promoting and lobbying for arts programs to be maintained as a part of the core curriculum in the schools. Although many of the state music education organizations have their own sets of goals, Boothman did indeed highlight the fact that there have been many joint efforts to further the greater good of music education.

It would certainly be beneficial to do an in-depth study of the multifaceted efforts going on in Texas, both at the local and state levels, so that this exceptional model for music education could be adapted to other regions of the country. This could potentially provide the necessary roadmap needed to bring music programs greater strength to music education nationwide…

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