Welcome to the last in a four-part series by Dr. John Benham, a nationally renowned music educator who specializes in helping save music programs that have been targeted for devastating budget cuts. In his earlier pieces for AMP, Dr. Benham introduced us to two counties in which cuts to music education have been proposed, touched on the importance of building a strong music coalition, and introduced us to the reverse economics that impress bean-counters. This week he shows us the results from taking (or not!) the right steps at the right times.

Tale of 2 Counties Benham

There are four keys to successful advocacy for music education:

 Understanding the School System
A Well-organized Music Coalition
A Unified Music Profession
Understanding the Decision-Making Process

 Make it five: Pro-active Involvement in the Process


The Decision and The Results

Working collaboratively and proactively, the decision was made to save the program in Foresight County. The curriculum remained intact and students were allowed to continue participation.

Working from an adversarial and reactive perspective, the decision to outsource the elementary instrumental curriculum was adopted by the Failure County school board on the same night that the Status Report was to be presented by the parents.

Between the spring of the decision year and the implementation of the after school program the next fall, student enrollment dropped from 8,500 to 7,650, a loss of 90% of the enrollment.


The Lessons

As we strive to save, restore and build music education programs for students in American public schools, here are some key action points.

  • Establish a music coalition representing all schools, all levels and all areas of the music curriculum. Remember to involve the community at large.
  • Work for the unity of the music teachers; collaboration, not competition.
  • Get involved in the process. Have at least one representative at each board meeting.
  • Gather data on the music program, using it to present an annual Status Report to the board and administration. If necessary, get consultant assistance.
  • Do it now!

©John L. Benham
Used by permission

Benham-212x300Dr. John Benham’s area of expertise is saving and restoring music programs in the face of budget cuts. With over 30 years as a music educator and six years on a school board, his personal knowledge and experience has provided a unique understanding to help teachers and parents go before a school board and administration with language they understand. His methods are responsible for saving over $72 million in budgetary cuts to music programs, leading to the restoration of over 2,000 teaching positions and the continuation of music programs for over 500,000 students. In addition to his work as consultant with NABIM (The Band and Instrument Manufacturers Association), he is author of Music Advocacy: Moving from Survival to Vision and has been featured as a speaker at conferences throughout North America. He is a member of the ACDA and ASTA advocacy committees, and the MENC Task Force on advocacy. His plan and elements of his approach to this very significant problem have become a part of NAMM’s advocacy kit for music.