This year’s Super Bowl was a great game huh? I mean the way that guy caught and threw the ball, hitting a home run over the net was pretty exciting. I’m pretty sure the shot clock was a factor in the fourth quarter. Ok, I kid, I kid. Come on, someone gave me the title of “humorist.” Do you know how much pressure that is?

I enjoyed the Super Bowl just like any other sports fan. I really love sports. In fact, I was the starting catcher for my high school baseball team. No one ever believes me when I tell them that. Mr. Band Dork, dancer boy the athlete. I wasn’t the most beastly of catchers but I knew the game really well and played smart. In fact, I once got a guy called out at second. Not because I threw him out, but because I knew of an obscure rule that his bat couldn’t be 5 ounces lighter than it’s length. The kid hit a double, I brought it to the ump’s attention and the kid was called out. I was beaned the next time I went up to bat and their star pitcher got thrown out of the game. Brilliant right? But I digress, as I often do.

I wanted to take this opportunity on AMP’s blog to make sure something pretty incredible wasn’t missed that happened at this year’s big game. I was impressed with Indianapolis before the Super Bowl, but I’m sure most people agree the city really took itself to another level with the way it handled and featured the chaos of so many people coming to their town. And in all the millions of dollars being spent, hundreds of news hours being broadcasted, and a bazillion nachos being devoured, it never once lost its sense of community. The really impressive part, is that music and music education is a strong part of that community.

First, in case you didn’t know Lucas Oil Stadium is the only stadium in the U.S. that has been designed with both football and marching band in mind. Seriously, music groups were called in to test the acoustics of the stadium! (Now all we need is Bob Costas to call a marching band championship and we’ll be big time for sure. I mean come on, he does Luge!)

With the National Anthem being sung by Kelly Clarkson (who I might add did it wonderfully) there was a drum line delicately accenting her performance. That drum line was made up of people who are very active in the music education world. It sent a huge wave of energy down the social media artery of the music ed. community. (Like, Comment, Reblog, retweet, accidentally unlike then like again) The producers could have easily not had a drum line and the general public wouldn’t have noticed. Or they could have had people in there from Kelly’s band. But they chose to have local people who really did represent the music education pride of Indianapolis.

Then, halftime comes. Madonna is one of the biggest stars in the world. (By the way I want a light-up podium for all band rooms that changes colors based on the mood of the director after seeing that halftime show.) In the final third of her performance in marches in a large section of marching band students. REAL students from local High Schools. OMG, these kids just performed, doing what they love, at the Superbowl, with Madonna, in front of the universe! I never thought I’d see the day when a drum line was macho enough to Vogue. Again they could have easily chosen to go with professionals. But they didn’t. Why? Because music education is a part of the community. I have no doubt, the community was a huge influence in that decision. Indianapolis has CHOSEN to make music education a priority in everything it does. It’s part of the city’s culture and soul.

Which brings me to the main point of this article. Community choice. There’s an elementary school by me in Chicago called Nettlehorst. It’s a public CPS elementary school that is absolutely amazing. There is art EVERYWHERE. The walls are painted, crazy sculptures in the hallways, members of the community come in to play and read with the kids (for no money), and the school stands out in Chicago education. But it wasn’t always like this. About 10-15 years ago, the school was run down and not doing very well. Parents were having to choose between spending every penny they have to send their kids to an expensive private school, or risk their children falling behind with poor education or worse. One of the parents thought it was ridiculous that their local school was like this. So she chose to change it. (Now, this woman is an extremely strong lady who has shown when she wants to get something done…it happens.) So that being said, she partnered with the Principal first. Then she went to local business and got them to donate paint and supplies. When they said no at first…well, let’s just say she didn’t take no for an answer. She got other parents to volunteer to help create art in and around the school. Then they formed a parents group that continued to hold the administration and teachers accountable to high standards while being a partner for them to do their jobs as professionals, never losing sight that they’re all in this together. After a few years, parents stopped considering private school and sent more of their kids to Nettlehorst…because they wanted to. It became a beacon for the community which allowed everyone to participate in. These parents chose to make it happen.

This is where AMP and parents groups can make a difference. Great music teachers don’t settle for anything but the students’ best. Why shouldn’t you? Great music programs aren’t a gift, they’re a choice. Yes there are obstacles. There’s hard work involved, but the rewards are spectacular and necessary. If a city like Indianapolis, who was selected to host the biggest event in the world, chose not to lose sight of what it believes is important, than any parents group can choose to have a great music program. Just make sure the commercials are better. Seriously, this year was terrible  😉