Ten Tips for Launching Your Music Education Advocacy Effort
1. Engage your musicians, staff, and board in your education advocacy efforts.
Advocacy should be an integral part of the organization, and is part of everyone’s job description!
2. Recognize that the most effective education advocacy is local.
Education advocacy is primarily about local politics. Your school board was elected by people like you and the members of your audience. As elected officials, they should want to hear from their very own community citizens—including their orchestra.
3. Start an advocacy coalition now.
Partner with other arts organizations, local funders, arts agencies, and, most important, school districts. You need to have in common only one thing: that you want better music education in your schools. Where to begin? Use the relationships you already have to build a coalition. Existing program partnerships provide a great basis for advocacy, because they cement relationships, extend your network, and show results that you can use in persuading policy makers.
4. Recognize that the orchestra is only part of the puzzle.
Policy makers and the general public are less likely than arts insiders to distinguish among music, art, drama, and dance. What does make a difference is when arts educators and arts presenters—including orchestras—work together. Be sensitive to the needs of others in your coalition, especially the schools.
5. Hang in there.
All successful coalitions need a period of incubation.
6. Seize the moment – before there is a crisis.
Jumpstart your network and start advocating now. Do not wait for music education in your schools to be threatened before speaking up.
7. Make new friends.
Get to know your policy makers. Really get to know them, including their personal interests. You might be surprised to find enthusiasms that haven’t been tapped for advocacy.
8. Use online resources.
League of American Orchestras’s Music Education Advocacy Tools includes links to virtually every useful resource: Music Education Advocacy Tools. In addition, the Arts Education Partnership prepared an excellent resource to share with school principals, who play a key role in ensuring that every student receives a high-quality arts education as part of a complete education. What School Leaders Can Do to Increase Arts Education offers three concrete actions that school principals can take with little-to-no cost to increase arts education in their schools in a variety of grade levels
9. Use current research to build your case.
Sound research that demonstrates the positive influence of the arts on academic performance can get you the ear of a policymaker, even if the point you want to make about the benefits of music is much more complex.
10. Advocate for better data on student participation in music education.
Although there is research to support your case that music education improves learning in general, there is little information about how much music education is provided locally, statewide, or nationally. These facts will help you establish a baseline for improvement. So encourage your school board to provide accurate student participation data for music courses at individual schools and at the district level. A report from the Arts Education Partnership titled “From Anecdote to Evidence” provides twelve commonly-used indicators to assess the status and condition of arts education: http://www.aep-arts.org/publications-store/#id=1&cid=720&wid=401
Keep the League informed of your advocacy efforts.
Adapted from “Rally the Troops”
July/August 2005 issue of SYMPHONY Magazine