by Marc Whitt

PlanWhere did the school year go? It seems like we were just getting ready for the Fall semester when all of a sudden—WHOOSH—the school year ended!

This time of year is actually one of my favorites as a music parent. I enjoy browsing through the hundreds of performance photos my wife or I took while reminiscing about new and continued friendships with parents, directors and students alike. I’m so thankful for Facebook and the Cloud. I don’t believe the Smithsonian could even house all the band and choir photos we’ve taken! (I’m sure this describes you as well.)

It’s heartwarming to recall those special moments spent with your child when he or she gave it their very best for the musical challenge at hand. It’s also pretty neat, isn’t it, to see how much our children have grown and matured over the past year.

My freshman son, for example, began the year two inches shorter than me. Now, I seem to be looking up at him and even wearing his hand-me-down athletic shoes! I’m not sure when that happened!

For the music parent organization, this time of year offers a myriad of opportunities as you begin preparing for the upcoming school year. Here are some ideas you may wish to consider:

Officer Training/Retreat
Before everyone leaves town for Summer vacations, encourage your music parent organization’s president and music director to schedule some time for officer training.

It is critical to any organization that you provide officers, especially those who have been recently elected, with training. Such will only enable them to become the positive, effective leader your music directors and organization need and deserve.

If you haven’t already done so, check out the many training resources AMP offers via its website. This is an excellent starting place.

I have personally seen far too many music parents organizations ignore such professional development training. Think of it this way: the better informed and trained your officers are the healthier and more productive your organization will become. I guarantee it.

In addition to officer training, schedule a retreat that will allow your school’s professional music staff and organization’s officers to plan for the year ahead. You may wish to conduct this retreat at someone’s house where the atmosphere is much more comfortable and relaxed. Invite all to bring a covered dish or dessert, and enjoy the fellowship as you share, discuss and strategically plan.

And by all means, please have your retreat’s meeting organized by way of an agenda as this will assure for better organization, communication and productivity.

Each music parents organization should prepare and support a handbook as this will provide the entire membership with critical information about the organization. Many handbooks include a comprehensive overview of the organization’s structure, parent volunteer committees, a contact directory listing the officers, booster meeting times and locations, a calendar of events, and oftentimes, the organization’s bylaws.

Should you already have such a handbook, whether it be in print or online, now is the time to review it for any necessary editorial changes.

A Welcoming Group of Friends
Last, but certainly not least, communicate early with those parents whose children may be joining or coming back as members of the band, choir or orchestra this Fall, and do so by welcoming them with a personalized touch.

None of us enjoy receiving mail or email addressed merely addressed to “Dear Parent” or “Dear ____.” The simple task of personalizing your communication with parents, especially those who are coming on board with you, is one of the absolute best ways to show them your organization cares about and sincerely seeks their engagement.

Another excellent touch is to host a “welcome back” cookout or reception for parents and their children in late July or early August. What better way to bring together the band, choir or orchestra family than by hosting a time of fun and fellowship!

You may wish to invite the parents of recent high school graduates who can testify as to their child’s positive experience with the band, choir or orchestra program. Besides, they’ll appreciate being kept as extended members of the organization’s family

If you start off strong, communicate effectively and lead with purpose and direction, the coming school year will prove to be an exciting and productive one for you and your music parents organization. It’s never too early to plan ahead!