What started as a single day of music advocacy by the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) back in March of 1973 has grown into a month of celebration and advocacy for music in our schools. Our tireless efforts to promote the importance of music education has been joined by the other arts, and March is now recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as “Arts in Our Schools Month.”
Music in our Schools Month® (MIOSM) can mean so many things to so many people. For many, it means participating in an Advocacy Day in their state capital and taking their ensemble to perform for legislators. This happens every year in Michigan, Utah, New York, Florida, California, and Florida. Other programs participate in online performances or perform at the local or school level. But most importantly, MIOSM offers each of us the opportunity to remind our communities, legislatures and other decision makers that music and the arts are an integral and important part of the core curriculum for every child – and need to continue to be.
Having a performance or mini concert to celebrate music in your school or community during the month of March is an excellent way to advocate for quality music education for all students. Consider including a song like Power in Me by Rebecca Lawrence in your concert. This anthem of empowerment is being used by the National Association for Music Education and American Young Voices for their “biggest school chorus” concerts in May and June. The song is currently available for free on NAfME’s website. We were able ask Ms. Lawrence a few questions about the song, as well as her thoughts about the importance of music education.
What message do you hope to send through Power in Me to those students who will be studying the work for MIOSM or for the “Biggest Chorus in the World” program?
Power in Me is a “turbo button” song. It seems to create energy as you sing it and at times there is an unspoken consensus of turbocharged spirit and passion that hits you like a wall of sound – you literally lean back, take the hit, laugh at the sight and sound of your children singing their choral socks off and fizzing with glee! It is a song about empowerment, self belief and inner strength that comes when one has to dig deep inside and find that extra something when times are tough.
You need to “live” this song, not just sing it. Energize your voice, move your body and your mind will love you for it! Let those endorphins have a party!
As an educator, musician and parent, how important is a well-rounded education for all students, and how does the study of music and the arts fit in?
The creative arts are at the core of being human. Communication, commemoration and celebration have been central to who we are. The exquisite artistic creations unearthed by archaeologists from thousands of years ago to the present day give us the evidence that we are more than “ordinary” – music has been central to our beliefs, cultures and societies since the first horn or shell was blown. I truly believe the arts make us whole, fulfilled and rounded individuals.
While the music and the arts should be valued as subjects in their own right so that a depth of learning and understanding is achieved, the beauty of the arts is that they fit into every area of study – and so cross-curricular music is simple to squeeze into the curriculum. Education without the arts would be like learning to ice a cake but never knowing how to bake one!
As an educator, musician and parent, if you had the attention of every politician, every school administrator, and every school board member – what would be your message to them in terms of a music education for all?
The benefits of music on the mind have been well documented, and this combined with the growth in self esteem that comes from developing skills in music make it an intoxicating mix.
Music making as a group is incredibly powerful in equalizing people; it makes invisible bonds between people and makes connections that can last a lifetime. Education should always be about the whole person, preparing them for their life ahead but also celebrating the here and now. It is a living subject that needs space, time and resources to blossom so that its riches can be harvested now and in the future.
So, what are some things you can do to celebrate music in your school during the month of March? Consider having a concert in your school – even if it is a mini concert. These songs that celebrate music would be a perfect way to begin or end the performance, and the Pentatonix song Sing might be a great piece to frame the concert. Elementary titles could include Why We Sing, In the Name of Music or And This Shall Be for Music. Great middle school titles include Celebrate Music, How Can I Keep from Singing? or Sing to Me. For high school, you might want to think about Flight Song, The Awakening, or If Music Be the Food of Love. Invite administrators, local politicians, and parents to attend or even perform with the group. You could have your principal, an administrator or even a politician “direct” one of the numbers. Have the entire music department get involved and think about ending with one big group song as the finale. Since Music in Our Schools Month has been expanded to include all of the arts, don’t forget to include your visual arts, theater and dance teachers and students – they can be powerful allies!
Other ideas to celebrate music in our schools include:
- Flash mobs that sing or play can be fun and easy to do in the school environment – just make sure that you have checked with the building administration and other teachers it may affect first!
- Have students create and record 30-second audio/video productions or a podcast that demonstrates the importance of music in their lives. Better yet, have students ask parents, teachers, administrators or politicians and local lawmakers to be part of their production with the emphasis on the importance of a music or arts education. There are many more ideas and activities available on the NAfME Music in Our Schools Month® website.
In addition to celebrating music in our schools with musical performances, make sure you have something to hand your guests – something they can take with them that stresses the importance of music education in our schools and in our children’s lives. Some great advocacy tools including handouts, ideas, and toolkits that can be used during the month are available from the NAMM Foundation, NAfME, the National Education Association, and state Music Education Associations.
How do you celebrate music at your school? Tell us about it in the comments. And check out our list of songs that celebrate music itself.