FOCUS ON ISSUES & DECISIONMAKING: An Overview of “Tips for Success: A HELPFUL Guide for Instrumental Music Teachers”

In This Article:

Tips for Success: A Guide for Instrumental Music Teachers (newly revised by the Music Achievement Council) collects invaluable secrets and advice from leading music educators. It helps make music teachers’ jobs easier because it covers many topics neglected in formal teacher education programs.

Organized into 24 chapters (featuring checklists and videos), Tips provides practical, easy-to-use information plus “911” solutions to help educators stay on top of all elements of successful music programs. This resource covers it all, from a focus on the classroom and working with administrators, to advocacy and engaging community support. 

HELP! Where do I start?

Teachers may first use Tips’ checklists to evaluate their own programs. To ensure your program is up to snuff with the locale, you may want to survey the directors in neighboring or similar school districts to obtain information such as:

  • Is there a music coordinator and a written, sequential curriculum in place?
  • Is the music program funded through the district budget?
  • Are books and equipment updated regularly?
  • Is equal access provided for all students?

Some checklists focus on essentials for early career stages (developing a teaching style, selecting music, lesson preparation, communication skills), but educators at all levels use Tips to stay organized.

HELP! I need to build a program!

Recruitment and retention are the mainstays of quality music programs. With many courses competing for the same students, educators will find useful ideas about how to provide positive experiences, implementation of the First Performance concert program, and how to involve school music dealers.

A working “partnership” with a local, full-service, school-oriented music dealer can benefit music programs and save time and money via:

  • High quality instruments for the purposes of demonstrating or testing the students
  • Recruiting posts for in-school use
  • Availability of rental instruments, books and stands
  • Trained music personnel to talk with parents and offer guidance if requested
  • Pre-checking instruments to ensure top playing condition
  • Equipping rented or leased instruments with necessary accessories for beginning players to get started successfully.

HELP! I need new instruments!

Nowadays, music educators are lucky if they walk into a new job and find adequate equipment in good shape. Most superintendents and school boards do not know the importance of balanced instrumentation. As director of the music education program, you must map out a clear, simple picture of the program you want to build, including its approximate cost. School board members need to know that programs rest on a sound foundation, and Tips offers a three-step proposal process, with templates, to update school equipment.

• Create a five-year plan to evaluate instruments’ condition and value. Prepare an inventory record of school-owned equipment (instrument make, condition, approximate age, needed repairs), and estimate both replacement costs and present values (the trade-in value on new equipment). Ask your school music dealer to assist with this activity.

• Prioritize a list of instruments to be replaced within the next five years. Add instruments that ensemble personnel will require in future years. Consider your department’s probable growth when estimating repair costs, music supplies and equipment. The Tips guide shows suggested instrumentation of various ensembles to help choose the proper instruments to purchase.

• Write up the complete five-year plan in a clear, concise manner. The first page should explain the need in your own words. Address reasons for purchases (needs analysis) and how they will help students. Include expected instrument life and depreciation value. Present this package to the appropriate supervisor and be prepared to present the plan to others. The Tips provide a sample rational, working templates, and even lifetime and depreciation charts.

HELP! I know nothing about pubic relations!

Regularly scheduled arts events open doors to community education. Concert audiences appreciate printed program notes and presentations about the performed compositions. Ask your music dealer for assistance with preparation and printing. How about sponsoring a lecture/demo on certain pieces or styles of music prior to, or during, a performance? A parent or faculty rhythm band accompanying your ensemble during a piece or two enhances the concert experience for all. Why not ask an audience member or school staff person to “conduct” one piece of the concert?

Fill your concert program with facts that support music education. Ask a fellow teacher to dress as a composer and interject stories of their inspiration. Discuss works in progress, give achievement awards, or present data about your music students (GPAs, selection for honor ensembles, etc.). It’s vital to inform your community about the purpose, structure and achievements of your school’s music program.

HELP! What else do I need to have a successful, well-supported program?

Tip #17, Gaining the Arts Advantage: Lessons for Schools that Value Arts Education (excerpted from a 92-page report from Arts Education Partnership), examines 13 critical factors that influence successful arts programs. Conduct a self-assessment. Are these factors present in your school district?

1. The Community. Networking and community involvement rank #1 in creating support for arts education.

2. The School Board. Districts with strong arts education programs have boards of education that provide a supportive policy framework and environment for the arts.

3. The Superintendent. Superintendents who regularly articulate a vision for arts education are critically important to successful program implementation and stability.

4. Continuity. Stable school and community leadership is needed to implement a comprehensive, long-term arts education plan.

5. The District Arts Coordinator. Full or part-time arts coordinators facilitate program implementation and maintain a supportive environment for arts education.

6. A Cadre of Principals. School principals who collectively support arts education for all students often are instrumental in successful district-wide policy implementation.

7. The Teacher as Artist. Effective arts teachers continue to learn and grow in art form mastery and in teaching competence.

8. Parent/Public Relations. School leaders in districts with strong, system-wide arts education programs seize opportunities to publicize successes in order to maintain support and secure additional funding.

9. An Elementary Foundation. Strong elementary school arts programs are the foundation for strong system-wide programs.

10. Opportunities for Higher Levels of Achievement. School leaders provide specialized arts programs within a broad strategy for securing and sustaining community support for the district’s overall educational goals.

11. National, State and Outside Forces. Use state or national policies and programs to advance arts education.

12. Planning. School leaders combine a comprehensive vision and plan for arts education with incremental implementation.

13. Continuous Improvement. School districts that succeed in advancing arts education promote reflective practices at all school levels to improve quality.

Tips for Success provides easy-to-use solutions for everyday challenges: it is an invaluable quick reference guide for EVERY music educator. Download your complimentary copy today; you may also follow Music Achievement Council on Facebook.

-- Marcia M. Neel is President of Music Education Consultants, Inc. and a member of the SupportMusic Coalition Steering Committee. She is a veteran of 36 years in public school music education, including 13 years as Supervisor of the Secondary Music Education Program of the Clark County School District in Las Vegas, NV.