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One of the wonderful aspects of this digital age in which we live is the immediate access to so much information. Music educators, like professionals in many other industries, can now reach out via a click of a mouse and a few taps on a keyboard to browse virtually limitless relevant and helpful content, some of which might even serve to improve skill sets and advance careers. The Music Achievement Council (MAC) is a panel of music industry professionals who share the singular goal of wanting to assist and promote the teaching of music. Although the MAC predates the information age by several years, the Council has evolved with the times, and now has available on their website a wide array of materials designed to help educators address common challenges found in music classrooms across the country.

“The original meeting, which grew into what is now known at the Music Achievement Council, was held at the National Association of School Music Dealers (NASMD) annual meeting in 1982,” says MAC member Steve West of West Music, a music retailer with locations across Iowa and Illinois. “Manufacturers and retailers came together to discuss ways of addressing a number of concerns and problems school music programs were experiencing in the early ‘80s. The organization went through several evolutions and settled about 15 years ago on the current seven-person council.”

Originally, the MAC started out with the objective of bringing awareness to music industry manufacturers, suppliers, and retailers about the challenges music educators face. “It’s almost like a bi-partisan group, including Joe Lamond, the CEO of [music products trade organization] NAMM, three people from the manufacturing and distribution side of the music products industry, and then three people from the retail side,” notes Rick Young, who, in addition to being the MAC chairman, is also senior vice president of Yamaha Corporation of America. “The idea was that we knew that there were concerns facing music educators, and the question was how we could build awareness of these concerns and then find ways to help alleviate them. That mission has evolved over the years. The awareness angle is important, but at this point I think everyone knows that music programs are based on the quality and job done by the music educator. Areas like budgets, scheduling, and so many other things can be really problematic. If you talk to any retailers who are strong in school service, they will all say that the educator makes all the difference in the world – the retailers get it.”

The premise is that with better preparation for the many challenges music educators face – in all aspects of instruction and program management – educators will be more successful, and more kids will receive quality instruction. Young notes that the Council’s efforts are not an indictment of the preparations future educators receive during their college years, so much as an acknowledgement of the complexity and difficulty of running a quality music program.

“We now have products that we have updated to what makes sense for today’s educators,” says Young, “including The Practical Guide to Recruitment and Retention, Tips for Success, videos, and the wisdom and insight from people like Tim Lautzenheiser, Marcia Neel, and Charlie Menghini of Vandercook College. The Council has recently expanded, taking on two positions that we call educational advisors, Marcia Neel and Charlie Menghini. Those two individuals are really plugged into what’s happening out there. Marcia is an expert in understanding the challenges facing educators out there in the trenches, while Charlie runs a college that focuses on preparing future generations of music educators. There are these needs that aren’t being met, so we have to raise awareness so we can help educators – especially those new to the job – do better and have more success. None of us can afford to have the current rate of attrition to educators continue.”

One key hurdle for the Music Achievement Council has been simply finding ways to put the materials that they produce in the hands of as many educators as they can. “That was a big challenge when I came on board in 2004,” Young admits. “We have these great products that we are continually updating, but our big question was how we were going to get them out to the educators. To make that happen, we’ve started the ‘state-by-state’ initiative. We have had spokespeople doing sessions on our materials at state MEAs and bringing that awareness to the teachers. We pass out literature and products to 100 or 150 people at a time. Now we have everything on a flash drive. It’s really easy to get that information out to people and keep everyone updated through those methods or on our Facebook page. We also have a database of teachers we’ve spoken to at the state conventions, and we let them know when we have new articles or materials that might be helpful to them. The whole delivery system has become much better.

“The whole key is about getting support for the educators.  If they use these materials, they’ll be more successful, and our real goal is to help retain good, successful educators. With the addition of our educational consultants, we now have a viewpoint that we may have been missing. We had the manufacturing and distribution side, we had the retail side, and we had the NAMM side; the one side that was missing was the true music educator perspective, and that’s what these folks will bring. We think they will help us get our message out to a broader audience, and they also are in touch with the latest trends and challenges facing educators.”

Marcia Neel, the former music supervisor for Las Vegas’s Clark County School District, is the person who has been presenting sessions on the MAC materials at state MEAs. “A lot of times, teachers’ needs might not be what you might perceive them to be,” she notes. “Some of their needs are more along the lines of areas of training in planning or logistics that they didn’t get while they were in school, but that business people completely understand. For example, younger or less experienced educators might not understand how to lay out an instrument replacement plan – something like a five-year plan to make sure that their students are playing quality instruments that aren’t in disrepair. That is where the Music Achievement Council is coming from in terms of what it’s brought about in its publications for teachers.

“We have wonderful materials, and as I travel around the country presenting them, I’m amazed by how many people aren’t aware of these free tools that are out there for them to use in their classrooms. The Music Achievement Council’s goal is to help music educators be better teachers. Educators should know that they aren’t out there all alone. Everything from how to perform effective advocacy, the business side of music education, managing a budget, even things like classroom management and organizing and programming a concert – it’s all covered.  These are wonderful and helpful tools. It’s like a music ed program in a box, all available online for free at www.nammfoundation.org/music-achievement-council, and at music education conferences across the country.”

Bill Harvey of Buddy Rogers Music notes that the members of the MAC don’t necessarily consider themselves experts, so much as conduits of this expert information. “The council has done a lot of research by talking to many really successful people,” he says. “That’s how we all learn. There’s tons of information that successful educators have shared with us, and we’ve formatted it into a number of different materials that we’re trying to get out there – on the website, the thumb drives, videos, and so on. Our job is not to find the solutions, but to listen to the people who have found the solutions, and then go and share those ideas and best practices with educators through our presentations, our materials, and our websites.”

The next phase of the MAC’s research will focus on the attrition that occurs among music students between middle school and high school. “That’s one area where we lose a ton of kids,” says Young.  “Our educational consultants are actively researching this topic by asking successful educators out there, ‘How have you bridged that gap?’ For the last four years, we’ve been videotaping educators at the Midwest Band Clinic to get their best practices in a format that we can share with other educators. We will simply be asking people how they do that, and we’ll build our next materials out of the responses we get to that question – how to maintain retention from junior high into high school. Once we formulate those materials, we’ll identify the next area of challenge and then we’ll address that one.”

“We’re a relatively unknown organization, which is okay as long as the important conversations are still happening out there,” says MAC member George Quinlan Jr. of Midwest retailers Quinlan & Fabish. “The question sometimes comes about whether or not this is some kind of for-profit venture, because there are retailers and manufacturers involved. This is a volunteer effort. The industry only grows when school band and school orchestra programs recruit more students and retain them longer. We really have the same goals as educators in this respect. People think there might be a hidden agenda when they see major companies like Yamaha and Hal Leonard are involved, but there really isn’t. It’s a volunteer group that wants to help educators reach more students and keep them involved in music.”

"The original meeting, which grew into what is now known at the Music Achievement Council, was held at the National Association of School Music Dealers (NASMD) annual meeting in 1982," says MAC member Steve West of West Music, a music retailer with locations across Iowa and Illinois. "Manufacturers and retailers came together to discuss ways of addressing a number of concerns and problems school music programs were experiencing in the early '80s. The organization went through several evolutions and settled about 15 years ago on the current seven-person council."

Originally, the MAC started out with the objective of bringing awareness to music industry manufacturers, suppliers, and retailers about the challenges music educators face. "It's almost like a bi-partisan group, including Joe Lamond, the CEO of [music products trade organization] NAMM, three people from the manufacturing and distribution side of the music products industry, and then three people from the retail side," notes Rick Young, who, in addition to being the MAC chairman, is also senior vice president of Yamaha Corporation of America. "The idea was that we knew that there were concerns facing music educators, and the question was how we could build awareness of these concerns and then find ways to help alleviate them. That mission has evolved over the years. The awareness angle is important, but at this point I think everyone knows that music programs are based on the quality and job done by the music educator. Areas like budgets, scheduling, and so many other things can be really problematic. If you talk to any retailers who are strong in school service, they will all say that the educator makes all the difference in the world – the retailers get it."

 



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