Strength in Numbers

By Marc C. Whitt

PrintHow united is your school’s music parents? That perhaps might seem an odd question to ask. After all, aren't nearly all music parent organizations united?

A simple answer is both “yes” and “no.”

As a music parent for nearly 15 years, it has been my observation that most booster organizations do many things quite well: organize and manage fundraisers, oversee travel logistics, conduct productive monthly meetings, and so on.

However, there is one area, I believe, that holds much potential as we advocate for our schools’ music programs. It is often overlooked and is right under our very noses: meeting and working together as band, choir and orchestra parents.

In other words, when was the last time you and other music parents, regardless if your child plays an instrument or sings in a school-supported ensemble, actually met together—as your school’s music parents?

American journalist Mark Shields perhaps said it best:

“There is always strength in numbers. The more individuals or organizations that you can rally to your cause, the better.”

I suppose this dawned on me at the recent Midwest Clinic in Chicago. A band parent came by the Association of Music Parents booth to learn more about the organization. While at the booth, he shared a wish for his school’s band and choir booster programs to have “more muscle” when it came to advocating for greater financial and personnel support. (His school did not offer orchestra.)

He shared that there were nearly 200 active parents in his school’s band booster organization and 150 or so choral music parents. After the math was done, this gentleman discovered that for a school pupil population of 1,000, there were more than 350 parents who had a child engaged in a music ensemble. That number, as he quickly noted, was significant and could become an even more effective voice for music education! I’m sure many of you have a similar situation.

Presented for your consideration are a few ways you might wish to engage your school’s music parents while respecting the autonomy of your band, choir and/or orchestra booster organizations:

  • Conduct an annual concert that joins the forces of your instrumental and choral music ensembles, and charge a modest admission fee. Not only will such a performance generate greater attendance and community PR, but can become a successful fundraising event that pulls together your music parents. One high school in the South successfully conducts such an event each Holiday Season. This concert, featuring the high school’s various bands and choirs, attracts nearly 800 people each of the two nights and collects more than $10,000—for which half goes to the band and the other half to the choir.
  • Meet twice a year as a body of music parents and invite the school district’s administration, board of education and school’s leadership as you advocate for music in your school. This meeting must be conducted in a non-threatening environment where productive discussion, listening and results are encouraged and achieved. A planning meeting in advance with your music parents is strongly recommended as this would allow you to determine the issue(s), prepare the agenda and positions you wish to present.
  • Consider conducting an end-of-the-year music parents banquet that would recognize school, community, donors and volunteers who have made a significant difference in the life of your school’s music program that particular academic year. Public recognition in such a way also stands as a powerful advocacy tool and helps further unite your school’s music parents.
  • Lastly, jointly participate in professional development opportunities. Not only will such help shape and develop your booster leadership, they will equip your VIPs (Very Involved Parents) with the know-how to become the complete music parent. The Association of Music Parents offers several outstanding workshops, conferences and webinars for member music programs and school districts. To learn more, contact AMP at www.amparents.org.

As Publilius Syrus, a Latin writer of 43 AD, said:

"Where there is unity there is always victory."

By pulling together the resources of your school’s entire music parent army, you most certainly will witness victories for music education never before imagined!

One thought on “Strength in Numbers

  1. Marc, you are 100% right with this piece of advise. I have been in the fund raising business for 35 years specializing in high school and middle school music departments. I taught music, adjudicated competitions all over the world and have been around music departments my whole life. A perfect example of what you are saying is with the Bergenfield HS Music Dept. Last year, they raised $97,560.00 with our sale. They did it, by uniting the band, choir and orchestra as well as the parent groups of all three. A unified effort can really make a big difference. Sometimes they need to put their petty differences aside and consider what is best for their children.

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