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Marketing The Music Program to Your Community

Sharon Paquette Lose • MAC Corner • December 13, 2016

Why market the music program to your community? Because your support, funding, and existence depend on it.

Marketing means setting up a way to communicate offerings that have value for customers, business partners, and society at large. Where programs thrive, the local community sees a need for music education, they are willing to pay for it, and they understand the short term and long term benefits of the experience. Students, parents, and community members within our respective spheres (school, school district, town, county, state, and nation) must have a way to react to and/or contribute to the extrinsic and intrinsic benefits of studying music. The below points examine some practical ways that will emphasize the impact of music education and will market the need for continued music instruction to your community.

BE PRESENT. Create many opportunities for your community to see the music program in performance mode. Allow students to perform at municipal functions like parades, festivals, or special recognition ceremonies. If you have a Tri-M Honors Society, let those students develop a music performance service project for their senior citizen community, military veterans, or local hospital. While it can be overwhelming to field performance requests from the community, we can’t afford to have a reputation for not having a presence in our communities. Help the students to know that they are giving the gift of music to their community. If you have taken a back seat in the community as far as public performances, challenge yourself to get a few dates on the calendar where your community can enjoy a performance. While it is enticing to have a local, state, or national presence in the music world, consider your reputation within your community. That is the most important focus.

COMMUNICATE student success. Make a big deal about students that audition for and/or are selected for honor ensembles. Get their picture in the newspapers and local tech feeds for your community. If that sounds overwhelming, work to assign a parent or student that can work with you to keep current on monthly or quarterly news. Work to have a constant feed of news happening on a Twitter, Facebook, or website blog. These are items your community can share, and it will help you to always have a digital scrapbook of all that is going on in the music department. Involve students and parents in this endeavor since it is THEIR music program.

CONNECT the community to the benefits of music education. Start a longitudinal study (a Google form or other online survey works best) that high school senior students take each year. Ask them to provide information on degree/career paths, extra-curricular involvement, scholarship money received for music talent AND academic talent. Connect the fact that music students are highly achieving students that get scholarships. At my school, we use and celebrate this information at our annual Music Awards Ceremony. We highlight the most common universities that students will attend, most popular degrees being pursued, and the total number of dollars earned in scholarships. Community members, parents, and younger students need to see and hear about these statistics so that they know it is possible to receive these awards. Our music parents are encouraged that music is a viable pursuit in college.

CREATE opportunities for students, parents, and community members to RESPOND to what music is doing in the schools. Students should have opportunities to answer questions such as “what impact does music have in your education?”, or “why do you study music?” Those responses (with permission) can be used as testimonials of their experience in music. Don’t be afraid to try this with all grade levels. You will be surprised at their profound responses! I have a colleague, Ryan Rimington (Neuqua Valley High School), that asks parents of senior students to write a letter to their child about the impact they have seen music play in their education and childhood. This gives parents an opportunity to put into words the experience they have had as they’ve watched their student benefit from music study. Create a discussion panel of students that interact with each other about the impact music makes in college acceptance or the balance it creates in their overall education. You can visit artspeaks. net to see examples of student panel discussions. Invite community business owners, town leaders, or any inspiring adults who have a belief that music education has impacted their life in some way. Whether they can speak to the social, emotional, mathematical, scientific, physical, or artistic connections that they now use to be successful in their jobs, or some way that music education has helped them to become significant in their field, use their stories and their experiences to market the importance of continued support, funding, and scheduling of music in our schools.

When it comes down to it, “marketing your program” comes down to helping everyone see the value of what you have to offer. And, like music performance, we have to allow students, parents, and the community a chance to PRACTICE saying, writing, and thinking about its value. Try not to generalize the importance of music education through the typical inclusion of statistics from national studies and research. Rather, highlight the specific ways that your community already embraces music education and how those experiences continue to change the lives of its members.

To learn more about how educators are specifically marketing their program, visit nammfoundation.org and click on the “for educators” tab.

Glen Schneider is a music educator teaching wind and percussion classes, directs the Marching Mustangs, Jazz Orchestra, Metea Valley Symphony Orchestra, and is the Music Department PLC Leader. An adjunct instructor at VanderCook College of Music, he teaches several courses for the MECA Graduate Studies program and has been involved with the Music Achievement Council since 2008.

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