Increasing music advocacy by involving others is one of the quickest and most effective ways to build support for your music program. When you involve others in a positive manner, you get automatic buy-in. You learn and gain a different perspective from the people you are working with and you widen your circle.
This post is the third in a 3-part series to help you build music advocacy for your elementary music program. If you have not get a chance to see the first two posts, the links are below.
3-Part Music Advocacy Series
- Steps to Build Music Advocacy in the Elementary Grades
- Increase Music Advocacy by Developing Music Literacy
- Increasing Music Advocacy by Involving Others
Read on for ways you can increase advocacy for your music program while involving others.
Use Volunteers to “Fill in the Gaps”
My first teaching position was as a band director for grades 5-12 in a small rural school district. Instrumentally, the high school band was very unbalanced, but the school staff and community was a treasure-trove of musicians waiting to be tapped.
One father had played trumpet in a military band and our superintendent and principal were also trumpeters. I found several more parents and teachers who were also musicians and willing to share their talents. I scheduled one evening rehearsal per week so that parents and teachers were able to attend.
Admittedly, many of the adults had not played in years. One parent even asked for lessons. But, they all got up to speed rather quickly. And, having a larger, more balanced group greatly enriched the performance experiences for my students and created instant parental support.
But, that was at the high school level. Read on for some fun ways you can start increasing music advocacy at your school by involving others at the elementary level.
For many years, I had an all-school choir of approximately 75 fourth and fifth graders. The choir met before school to rehearse. Each year, we performed a holiday program and I invited teachers and members of our school administration to perform with us on the last several pieces of the program.
We performed two separate concerts, one at school during the day and another in the community in the evening. It was AMAZING! Both students and staff looked forward to it. The superintendent of our large district even took the time to come join in. You never know unless you ask.
Enhance a School Event
I also created a small teacher orchestra that performed for our fifth grade promotion ceremony every year. Most of these teachers only got their instruments out once a year. One teacher even stored her instrument at school.
The music provided by these teachers helped to make the event even more special for our fifth grade students and all of the parents attending the ceremony. The teachers enjoyed performing and it was a fun way to bring back our retirees who continued to play for several years after retirement.
Cameo “Celebrity” Performances
One year, the weatherman from our local TV station did a cameo appearance in our fourth grade show, “The Weather Man.” He was a real sport. He actually climbed into the refrigerator box that served as the “television” for our set. In the last scene, the audience gasped when the “TV” came on and a “real celebrity” was inside. The “weatherman” even gave us a shout out on the nightly news that evening using some of his lines from our show!
At the elementary level, many different people can qualify as a “celebrity.” Other celebrity performers that you might consider inviting could include policemen, high school or middle school music teachers, high school musicians, local musicians, music teachers from nearby districts, coaches, etc.
Teachers can Serve as “Celebrity” Performers
One year, all of our fifth grade teachers performed cameo roles in “The Dream Catcher.” They played the role of the “monsters” in the kids’ dreams. The art teacher also had a cameo role. She even sang a solo! Performing alongside their students was a rewarding experience for the students and teachers.
Another year, our school librarian played double bass and our orchestra teacher played violin during a grade level music program. They dressed in costume and played the roles of “ma” and “pa” in one of our shows. We sang, and danced, and played while “ma” and “pa” fiddled. It was so fun!
Invite Guests to Help Teach a Lesson or Unit
During our recorder unit, I taught my fifth graders to play a simple 12-bar blues vamp. Then we invited a guest jazz artist come in and play a classroom performance with us. This allowed me to play the piano and keep our group on track while he improvised over the top of our vamps.
With his guidance, we opened up the tune and several students volunteered to solo as well. I worked hard to prepare my students for this experience ahead of time, but the lesson was MUCH more successful than I could have done on my own.
Invite Retired Teachers to Help
Retired teachers make GREAT guest helpers. Two retired music teachers helped out in my classroom several times to assist in running music centers. This saved me TONS of time and we were able to introduce new, more novel activities that really challenged students.
Teach a Collaborative Unit
When the second grade teachers approached me about teaching a collaborative unit on the science of sound, I was excited about the prospect. Together we developed a new unit where some elements were taught in the music classroom and some were taught in the homeroom class.
As a part of that unit, students made homemade instruments. In the music room, we used those instruments for improvisation and presented a classroom performance. It was a win-win for all!
Start Slow and Plan for Success
Begin by implementing one new activity at a time. If it is successful, it might turn into a tradition.
When you are involving others in music class performances, lessons, and other activities, those activities must be well planned and structured for success. If not, the project can easily derail and ultimately diminish support for your program.
Before you invite others into your classroom, make sure you have outlined and communicated the details of the event. Make sure everyone is on board. And, be sure your students are musically prepared and they know the behavior expectations for the activities.
There are many possibilities all around you for increasing music advocacy by involving others. Think “outside the box.” Involving others in well-planned and organized events builds your community and builds advocacy. Best of all, your students benefit from these experiences.
P.S. Elementary music teachers are important advocates to help build middle school and high music programs. Enrollment in these music programs greatly increases the likelihood that your students will become life-long music participants enriching their lives and the lives of those around them.
See 7 Ways Elementary Music Teachers Can Help Build High School Music Programs for specific strategies for advocating for upper level music programs