by Stacey Swanson, Give A Note Board Member
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world.
– Mr. Fred Rogers
I took a step back to reflect on this quote over my morning cup of coffee. It took me a week to come back to it and relate it to our current state of music education. Writing is like that. Sometimes, the inspiration hits you and you drop everything and write so you do not lose that thought. Then there’s times like my morning coffee reflection, where the thoughts you have are deep and wide like the Rio Grande, requiring a step back and a slingshot upwards to see a larger view. You may stay way up in the clouds for a long time exploring the relevance of your thoughts before you even write a single word because you know the words that follow are that important.
We are in an unprecedented time right now. As a parent, musician and advocate, all aspects of my life changed in a matter of months. Just like many businesses, our teachers and their normal shifted into a new normal. In music, it adds some complexity. Traditional teaching methods in ensemble and private instruction can be reliant on hands-on instruction. We’ve had to quickly adapt our teaching practices to adapt to our new world.
Music making had such a profound impact on my life as a student. Now a parent, I am blessed to see my own child excited about making music. As a music professional, I am witnessing a scary time for music teaching. Budget cuts and elimination of programs and needed allocation of funding for technology to help facilitate online learning have become more real. But as one person/mother/musician/teacher/advocate, it can be truly overwhelming to even know how to start or how to help. And that is when the impact of the Mister Rogers quote became clear.
Wait. Stop. I AM A HELPER. I can help.
Our children need music now more than ever. If you are a parent of a musician, it is vitally important to ask yourself “what am I doing to help right now?”. If you love music, have a child in music or were positively impacted by a music teacher yourself, here are five ways anyone can help right now.
Reach out to a Music Teacher and Thank Them!
Whether your student is in elementary, middle or high school, taking private lessons, or you know a music teacher, reach out. A simple “how are you doing through all of this?” moves mountains and opens the door for another question— “Is there anything I can do to help?”
Email Your Principal
Parents will need to be vocal about their school music programs, including elementary general music. Locate your state’s advocacy statement for music & the arts (this is typically found under your state’s Music Educators Association or State Arts Alliance) and let them know how important music is to you and your family.
Arts Education is Essential Statement (National Association for Music Education)
Music Education and Social Emotional Learning Brochure
Understand the Research
There is promising research coming out regarding new safety findings surrounding in-person school instruction. These guidelines will progress more in the near future. For now, here are some guidelines so that you can help your children make safe choices when playing music in school.
Instrument Cleaning Guidelines and Information
Track the Aerosol Study findings
School programs need you more than ever. If you are able, support non-profit organizations like Give A Note Foundation. Give A Note provides grants to schools in need and you support, even as low as $5, can go a long way. The great aspect of Give A Note is that they bring awareness to the importance of music education and to nurture, grow, and strengthen music education opportunities — for every student, every school, and every community. They truly support the music educator. You can make a one time or recurring donation here.
Be in the know from advocates around the country by joining the Music Ed Advocates Facebook group. Join the discussion! There are so many ways to be a good partner and advocate for music, from your school administration all the way up to your federal elected officials. Invite your booster group, PTO or your friends to join into the conversation.
Hashtags: #musicislife #musicadvocacy
Together, I know we can make a difference. I ask you as a parent to join me and make a difference for music in our schools.
About the Author
Stacey Swanson is the current Treasurer for the Give A Note Board and brings 14 years’ experience in the Music Retail Industry and 20 years of experience in the field of Music Education. Stacey has Bachelor’s degrees in Music Education and Bassoon Performance from The University of Georgia and a Master’s degree in Music Education from The University of Miami. She served as a music educator, private lesson instructor, Color Guard/Visual Ensemble choreographer and professional musician.
You can read her full bio here.