100 % Retention R “Go Team!”

by Marcia Neel

Marcia Neel serves as president of Music Education Consult- ants, Inc., a consortium of music education professionals who work with a variety of edu- cational organizations, arts asso-

ciations, and school districts to foster the growth and breadth of standards-based, ar- ticulated music education programs. She also serves as Education Advisor to the Music Achievement Council, a 501(c)(6) organiza- tion whose sole purpose is to assist directors in recruiting and retaining students in instru- mental music programs through effective professional development programs. In 2016, Marcia was named Senior Director of Education for the Band and Orchestral Divi- sion of Yamaha Corporation of America and subsequently, a Yamaha Master Educa- tor. Neel also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Percussive Arts Society.

Edited with permission from original article published in SBO Magazine

Students continue to participate in our music programs because they cannot imagine school without the meaningful engagement that our courses provide. For one reason or another however, we continue to lose some students along the way.

One South Carolina school district came to the realization that they could do something about it. Below is their story and some initial steps they are taking to work toward the vision of leading 100% of their students to a life-long relationship with music- making. “Go Team!” We’ve all heard it a MILLION times – this familiar cheer for an intensive sporting event where the outcome has a significant impact one way or the other. Using this same approach – i.e. the concept of an intensive goal creating a significant impact as


a result – innovative school district music departments across the country, like the School District of Pickens County (SDPC), SC, are taking the “Go Team!” approach to a whole new level!

During the district-wide E3—Engage, Excite and Enrich—Professional Development Day in early August, the SDPC Music Educators were challenged to explore how they might better to not only Engage, Excite and Enrich the lives of their students, but also to communicate the great work of their program and the high achievements of their students to their various constituencies—e.g. students not yet participating in the music program, school faculty and staff, district leadership, parents, and the greater community. Even though these educators were doing a tremendous job with their own programs, there was a sense of being untethered—as if there were no specific district-wide direction and as if they were on their own to “do it all.” Their perception was that even though they were each working diligently, they were not getting the traction they had hoped for and, in fact, deserved—to capture the attention of these various constituencies and to ensure that a common message was being delivered to all.

It was my privilege to have been asked to facilitate the PD activities which involved facilitating the entire “unification” process with the K-12 music education faculty for the day. It didn’t take too long to discover the first item that needed immediate attention—that being that although these teachers all worked in the same department within the same district, they didn’t all know each other! Surprised? Probably not. Is this a problem? Probably yes!

So we thus kicked off the day with introductions and everyone was courteous, yet

skeptical. We all know how these PD sessions can be so it was my initial charge to get this group of approximately thirty (30) music educators—many who had just met one another for the very first time—to jump on the band wagon and move forward with a unified purpose.

Our initial discussions centered around the conception of what others in our circle of influence—e.g. parents, administrators, community—think that we do. To encourage participation, we tossed around a cute little teddy bear bean bag that I had brought along from Las Vegas from one person to the next asking them to respond to the questions that were posed and little by little, I could see a few smiles here and there and soon, it became my job to bring the cadre of music educators back to order. It was EXACTLY what I had hoped for. We discovered that of all of the above groups, it was the music educators themselves who were the only ones who had an accurate comprehension of what they do and how it matters. The aha moment! This led us to understand that it was imperative that we generate a group identity.

We then spent a great deal of time looking at statistics that show how music-making really does effect students and we subsequently encouraged each other to share personal stories of students whose lives had been changed by it. Along the way, we kept bumping into that ever-present question, “Why music?” Another aha moment! We were going to have to come up with an answer to this question that would satisfy each and every one of the teachers. Little did they know how the answer to this question would come to have such a significant consequence for all of them.

Breaking up into groups was the best way to February/March 2019

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