We all lose when schools lose music. Anyone who has ever participated in a music program understands the role that music education plays in helping students to tap into their creativity and develop essential life skills. So many people underestimate the value of music programs because they don't see a direct link between "career" goals and music programs. However, the purpose of a music program isn't necessarily to churn out future professional musicians.
The research makes it clear that students benefit from music programs in schools. Exposure to music education promotes language development and spatial-temporal skills in young learners. Music programs are also linked with higher test scores and higher IQs. In fact, one study from the University of Kansas shows that kids exposed to high-quality music programs at schools score 20 percent higher in math on standardized tests.
All of this may make it seem very obvious to you that school music programs are important. However, the reality is that millions of kids around the country do not have access to quality music programs. The only way this can be fixed is if everyday people take action. Do you want to know how to save music? Take a look at five things you can do to keep music in schools.
Learn If Your Town or City Has a Music Program
Do you know what schools in your town or city offer in terms of music programs? Many people are unaware of what is actually offered to students where they live. The first step to saving music around the country is becoming involved right where you live. Members of the community can attend local board meetings to ensure that music education is being given the attention it deserves. Additionally, community members should be involved in making sure schools are hiring music instructors to give programs the support they need to thrive. It is important that local policymakers understand that taxpayers expect room in the budget for music education.
Attend Local Performances
This next tip is one of the easiest ways to support music education! Many middle schools and high schools host concerts throughout the year that are open to the public. There are two major benefits to attending these concerts. The first is that a high turnout shows that the community cares about and appreciates the arts. A packed auditorium that supports the children performing up on stage really drives home the point that music education is valued. The second way this helps is through ticket sales. Spending just a few dollars to attend musical events and concerts will help to fund the music program at your local school.
There is a way to go a step further with this. Members of the community should invite local and state policymakers to school concerts and music events. There is no better way to demonstrate the support and enthusiasm surrounding local music programs than by inviting those who make decisions to experience the momentum in person!
Join or Start a Booster Group
Does your local school have a booster group that supports its music program? A booster group is a volunteer organization that supports a specific program. The support comes through both fundraising efforts and event coordination. For instance, booster members may help to sell tickets to events or set up equipment in an auditorium before a concert.
Most school music programs only consist of one or two full-time faculty members. A booster group for a music program can provide some of the manpower needed for setting up or chaperoning events. Booster members fill in the gaps that are created when schools don't have the funding to staff huge music departments. This volunteer support essentially allows the staff members within a music department to do more with less. Additionally, the support that is provided generates lots of fanfare, excitement and engagement regarding a local music program.
Joining a booster group is the first step to providing hands-on support to your local music program. What if your town or school doesn't have a booster program? You'll need to talk to local music teachers and school administrators to figure out the steps that need to be taken to get one in motion.
Get Smart About Grants
The story isn't over just because your local school district is seeing budget cuts. Not all of the funding for a school music program has to come from the municipal level. There are many grant opportunities out there that can help to fund music programs even if the local budget has little room for music. The three grant types available are federal grants, grants from charitable foundations and corporate grants. Here's a rundown of the grant sources to consider if you need help funding a music program:
- The National Endowment for the Arts
- The National Endowment for the Humanities
- The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation
- The Give a Note Foundation
- The NEA Foundation
- The ASCAP Foundation
- The VH1 Save the Music Foundation
- The Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation
- The Guitar Center Music Foundation
Many generalized educational grants can also be applied toward music programs. In addition to providing direct funding for programs, grants often cover costs associated with music field trips and educational experiences. Teachers and administrators will often need to apply for grants on behalf of a school. However, parents can help by presenting grant opportunities to those in charge.
Make Fundraising a Part of Your Community
The reality is that keeping music programs funded is a constant battle. The fact that your local school receives a grant one year does not mean that smooth sailing is ahead. Music funding requires maintenance. This is one of the reasons why annual fundraisers and drives are so important.
Local fundraising events create awareness about the passion that members of the community have regarding music programs. It may seem "unfair" that so much work has to be done just to keep music programs funded. However, there is another way to look at the situation. The children in these programs get to see just how passionate the adults around them are about keeping music programs going. Children also learn that it's important to fight for what you think is important through positive, effective advocacy.
What are some good fundraising ideas for music programs? You have a few ways to go. One option is a donation drive where individuals, businesses and music programs from universities donate instruments. Another option is to host sales that will put all proceeds toward funding music. You can also plan events that are open to the public. Here's a rundown of some fundraising ideas for music programs:
- Concerts on the green.
- Movie nights at a local theater that give a percentage of every dollar earned to a program.
- A practice-a-thon event where donors pledge dollar amounts for every minute of rehearsal.
- Instrument drives that take place during a "battle of the bands" event.
- Exclusive "dinner and a concert" events that members of the public can attend with tickets.
- "Cover song" events where members of the public can pay to have their favorite songs covered by school musicians.
Many fundraising events grow to become staples of the community calendar each year. Many businesses are more than happy to lend support because of the positive exposure this provides. Additionally, community members are often happy to have a reason to get out and do something enjoyable on a Friday or Saturday night. Everybody benefits when you dig in to create some grassroots efforts for supporting local music programs.
You Can't Do It Alone
No one person can save music on their own. Preserving the country's music programs requires a collective effort. We all have to be willing to come together to make sure today's young learners are receiving the same opportunities that benefited many of us in such rich ways. The first step is to find out who you need to talk to about supporting music programs at the local level. This often means getting to know the school administrators and policymakers who handle funding and staff hiring in your city or district. The next step is connecting with people who share your same passion for supporting music programs. An entire generation of kids is depending on you to make sure the music stays alive!