How to Be an Advocate
While TMEA actively advocates for music education at the state level, it’s local advocacy that truly makes the difference around the state. Read on and get started doing your part to support quality music education for all students.
Music Directors: Whether you already have an active parent booster group or not, your students’ parents are likely the group with whom to start working. They witness the positive effects of music in the curriculum and realize what it means to their children. They also have connections. And connections will make a difference. If you don’t already work with a parent booster group, contact your students’ parents to begin organizing one.
Parents/Community Members: You have a strong voice, and you can influence school budget and curriculum decisions to ensure all children have access to music education. Connect with your local music teachers to offer your support for their programs (join a booster club, or work with the music director to start one if it doesn’t exist). Contact local school administrators and express why music education for all students is important to you.
Assess Your Connections
- Take time to get to know the abilities and connections within your group: Who has the access to civic and community groups?
- Who has the access to the media?
- Who can make connections with school officials; who can do this diplomatically to the best advantage of the effort?
- Who can identify, monitor, and call on legislators, school board members, or other decision makers for your school system?
- Who is interested in monitoring the school budget, giving your music education advocacy group guidance and input that can augment your actions?
Establish Your Priorities
It’s likely that local funding of music education and jobs will be at the top of your priority list. However, the specifics may vary from district to district. Whatever they are, it is important to document your priorities to ensure that every communication you make to your local decision makers in some way supports those priorities.
Define Your Message
With a clearly defined message, you can evaluate every action or communication in your plan to ensure that it supports this message in some way. While your communication methods may vary, the core message itself should be constant.
Create Your Advocacy Approach
Evaluate the avenues of communication you have that will support the priorities you establish and create a time line for executing your advocacy strategy. Always focus communication on how music education benefits every student, and where possible, get parents and community leaders to champion the cause. It is important that you support music education; however, it will be more effective for members of the community to speak out on why it must be a vital part of every student’s education. The following are a few ideas about how to be advocates for music education:
- Invite administrators and school board members to rehearsals/classroom to observe.
- Include administrators in your next program (perform a piece with narration to include them).
- Get administrators to present awards to your students during your awards ceremony.
- Communicate your program’s successes with local media.
- Parents/community members should submit letters to the editor supporting music education in the schools.
- Include advocacy material in your concert program, on your program’s website, and within any regular communications you have with parents.
- Parents should send letters to school board members explaining why they should support music education in the schools. (Sample letters, petitions, and other communications are available on NAMM’s Support Music website.)
- Parents should attend school board meetings and speak to the importance of music education for all students.
Engaging the Media
An important part of successfully advocating for music education is communicating the message consistently through local media. Review the News Media Toolkit for guidance on how to best prepare and submit information to media outlets.
Distribute Advocacy Materials
This website contains several print-ready materials and videos for your use in local advocacy. Additionally, the site links to the NAMM Support Music site that includes a wealth of advocacy material and thorough instructions for starting a grassroots advocacy effort.
Dan Pink’s keynote address from our 2009 convention and his speech at the 2009 Texas Senate/House briefing offer an effective message about how essential arts education is in preparing students for their future.
A Hard-Headed Case for Arts Education, Dan Pink, 2009 TMEA Clinic/Convention
The Role of Creativity in 21st Century Workforce Preparation, Dan Pink, 2009 Texas Senate/House Briefing
High-quality performances by school music groups can offer the best possible advocacy. Contact local community groups (maybe your students’ parents are already members) and ask if they would appreciate having a student group perform before the start of their meeting.