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research Musical Parents (and Community

Members) Support Musical Students Sheila Feay-Shaw, WMEA State Chair, Research

Parents are impor- tant to school music programs. The fi- nancial expectations of many programs mean that parents rent or purchase instruments from recorders to trom- bones, keyboards to

pianos, ¼ size violins to full-size cellos. Show choir groups have colorful outfits that are often purchased each year to help create a new look. Whatever the need, par- ents become a critical source of support.

Beyond the financial side, parents are some of music’s strongest advocates. Booster clubs have served for years as those people who help hand out uniforms at the beginning of the school year, sort music in the library, cut out teaching ma- terials and chaperone performances in the community. Some parents take these roles to support their children in experiences they did not have. Others get involved because they have had their own musical experiences that they found important to their life. Whatever the reason, music educators can support these community members in having musical experiences of their own on which to advocate for the power of music.

Changes in funding for music education are demonstrating the critical need for parents and other community members to have personal music experience. Indi-

“Beyond the financial side, parents are some of music’s strongest advocates.”


viduals in decision-making positions who have had personal experience with music making are more likely to understand the value that music has in the lives of children and adults. Community music experiences have become extremely important op- portunities to which we can steer parents and other community advocates. Whether this comes about through an interactive moment in a school concert, extra seats (or riser space) in our school ensembles, or information about community music groups, music educators can become an important link to music opportunities.

National Association for Music Education (NAfME) and the International Society for Music Education (ISME) both have special research interest groups in adult and community music which look at what types of musical experiences adults participate in across formal and informal music making. Researchers are looking at the connections people are making to their musical heritage and how some of these traditions are being brought into school through community musicians as a means of preservation as well as educa- tion. Traditional instruments in Beijing and Shanghai, China are being taught in after school centers as well as in school programs by local adult musicians who value the musical tradition and want to see it continue.1

Venda traditional music

and dance is being brought into schools to help students connect to their culture, something valued by community elders for children to learn.2

Both of these examples

show the benefits to both children and adults of musical experiences rooted in the community.

At the recent Wisconsin State Music Conference, Dr. Carlos Abril presented on musical experiences across the lifetime, which included school music, community music, adult groups and non-traditional music offerings. His presentation stems

“Whether we strive to “Get America Singing” or playing, music will convey its own powerful story.”

from a recent publication titled Musical Experience in Our Lives, co-authored with Jody Kerchner, in which they explore the many ways that individuals experience music.3

As music teachers, our lives are

defined musically by our work, but many of us also have other musical lives that we nurture. Understanding and valuing these experiences for our parents will help to strengthen music programs across the state and support the strong heritage that has been built.

Try one of these ideas:

• During the year, create a participa- tory element to a concert. Program a piece with the intention for audi- ence members to musically engage with it through clapping, singing, or otherwise “playing” along. Ar- rangements based on folksongs may be the greatest source for this type of performance selection.

• Provide a list of local musical groups that are open to new mem- bers. Offer the list to your parents who may be looking for a musical experience of their own in which to participate. Our own state orga- nization has gathered information on community music organiza- tions around the state. Go to www. and look under Community Music Groups for information to pass along.

January 2012

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