Music Education in a Rural Farming Community
My second job as a music educator was at a small school in a rural farming community in central Illinois. This school had been through five music teachers in two years. When I first started, there was a total of ONLY 5 students in the 5th through 8th grade band. There was no choir. There was no music curriculum and $0 budget dollars.
There are many people who would have quit during this first week. I, however, immediately knew this was a challenge I could take on and win. I believe that music plays a very important role in education and I was confident in my ability to communicate this to students, parents, teachers, and administrators.
In just 2 years, I watched the entire program be transformed from something that did not matter into something that became deeply important to many in the community. The band and choir grew to over 30 students each. These are not big numbers, but when you consider that the total number of 5th through 8th graders was roughly 60 students, you can easily see the dramatic shift that took place.
So, how do you build a music program in a school community where no one seems to care? The good news is that it’s not that hard. You have to show them that you believe in the value of what you are trying to do for their students. There has to be a healthy balance of fun and excellence. There has to be a healthy atmosphere that encourages talent but also gives every student an important role to play. That’s the most amazing part of music in education. It not only plays a role in brain development and learning, but it also provides an environment where students can come together and create something great together. They learn to be part of a team and the importance of every person on that team. Today, more than ever, it is a necessary outlet where many students find success. Students who have difficulty expressing anything elsewhere, learn to be creative. Students who have trouble speaking up, find they can play or sing out.
So if you are a believer in the importance of music education, here is how you can grow your music program. First of all, Let students in your school know you care. When you see them in class or in the halls, talk to them about the band and choir program. Let them know you would love to see them there. Secondly, Get parents on board. Start a booster club if you don’t already have one. Let parents know why you want their son or daughter in band or chorus. Thirdly, reach out do other teachers and
administrators. Get along with coaches and teachers who run other programs. Make it easy for students to be in music who are also in other activities. I personally, would much rather have students who are in sports miss some music events, than miss being a part of music at school all together. Finally, it is this simple. KNOW WHY MUSIC IS IMPORTANT FOR STUDENTS IN YOUR SCHOOL AND COMMUNICATE THIS.