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School Schedule Changes
This is your time to be an advocate for your program! Ask to be at the table, in planning meetings, and in schedule discussions to ensure your music program is considered and maintained! The schedule the admin team tentatively creates now will change before the fall so make sure you are part of every conversation. Be a listener, consider all scenarios, but also be an advocate. Think outside the box and work WITH your admin team on solutions that impact your program. This is your opportunity to continue building a collaborative relationship with your admin team and they will appreciate an open minded, problem-solver approach. While you need to defend your program, don’t get defensive!
As you look ahead to the fall of 2021, your admin team will have many considerations to consider and many can, and likely will, impact the music program. Depending on your state and local guidelines around social distancing as well as playing or singing, you will want to be a part of those conversations, especially if your district does not have an arts coordinator or supervisor. Begin conversations with your admin team now! Bring the current guidelines with you and ask them to keep these considerations for the fall until more information is released on what music will look like at that time.
Try to stay one SEMESTER ahead at all times, but also be flexible to changing conditions. In the summer, you should be planning fall trips, getting rosters together and planning fall rehearsals. Fall 2021, it will be imperative to see what events will be in place before setting your calendar In the fall. You should be planning for spring semester concerts, all-state auditions, and ensemble performances. In the spring, you should be getting your programing together for the next year being sensitive to literature level, planning which events to attend and getting your fall rosters together. The above all depends on what activities are occurring in your state, some states will offer the full range of performance opportunities as pre-pandemic times, others will take longer for these opportunities to return.
Talk to Administration Now (Video Below)
Since fall performances are the first objectives you will face, have a clear picture of what the community, administration and students will expect from the program and know how that may have changed. Now is the time to have conversations as a music department with the school’s administration. This allows for planning to occur early in case there needs to be changes in facility usage and staff schedules. Be open and honest with expectations of the music department so you can work with your administration to find workable solutions. Consider having your students take part in the First Performance National Day of Celebration to provide a performing opportunity for your beginners within their first 6-7 weeks of school. More information and a complete list of resources is available at: https://www.nammfoundation.org/fpndoc
Be Part of the Conversations - These Will Change Often
Prior to the beginning of school check all your dates on the school and student calendars. Get calendars out to parents as soon as possible to ensure proper communication and increase your students’ attendance at these events. Be sure to remind parents of an event well in advance and don’t make the first reminder the day before the event. Please note most school auditoriums stay booked all year long, so getting your holiday and spring concert booked now is a must if you want to use those facilities. Since many schools didn’t have performances during the 2020-2021 school year the corresponding calendar will not be an automatic, so this planning is crucial.
If dates haven’t been set, get this done as soon as possible. Consider using the 2019-2020 year as a starting point as there may be traditional dates in place. You’ll want this information so that you can work cohesively within your district and eliminate performance conflicts. Visit with your administration or activities director to define the expectations for the required number of concerts, Marching/Athletic Band performances, and musical theater productions; know your role.
To get started, you will need to compile rosters for your classes as soon as possible. Forecasting for 2021-22 will begin in the early spring. Contact your counseling department to stay on top of your roster and class placement if appropriate. Things like instrumentation and part assignments must be developed and set at this time. If you have to create a marching show, you will need to purchase a “ready-made” product that you can plug in quickly. If you want a custom product, you can start plans for that in February for the next year. You will also need to assess facilities and inventory at this time.
Pull Out Lessons
With a discussion of learning loss many schools will look to reduce the use of pull out lessons to address learning loss. However, music was not immune to learning loss during the pandemic and if pull out lessons were used pre-pandemic all efforts should be made to continue them post-pandemic.
Many districts are considering how to use the summer break as an opportunity to make up for lost learning experiences. This may also apply for music. With additional funding available through the second rounds of CARES funding for public education there is an opportunity to plan for ½ day week long (or more) music activities. A camp setting will allow to bring students together for the first time to play, is a recruitment tool, creates an opportunity to jump start beginners for the new year, and generate excitement for the return to music in the new school year. A new way to engage students and a chance to make up for lost time!
Dr. James Weaver is the Director of Performing Arts and Sports for the National Federation of High School State Associations. He has been a teacher and administrator at the district, state, and national level. As the Director of Performing Arts and Sports, Dr. Weaver oversees student participation, professional development, and awareness of performing arts activities throughout the nation’s 19,500+ high schools. Dr. Weaver has been a part of several national projects for performing arts educators including serving as the co-chair of the International Performing Arts Aerosol Study, creating copyright compliance resources, and developing national trainings for performing arts adjudicators. Dr. Weaver specializes in educational administration and leadership focusing on professional development and teacher job satisfaction and retention. Dr. Weaver has degrees from Concordia College - Moorhead, Northern State University, and the University of South Dakota.
Justin Bills, Choir Director, Utah
Jennifer Brooks, Band Director, Oregon
Craig Manteuffel, Performing Arts, KSHSAA
Kyle Mills, Manager of Performing Arts, NFHS
Bob Morrison, Director, Arts Ed New Jersey
Marcia Neel, Music Education Consultant
Amy Perras, Instructional Supervisor for Music, Art and Library Media, Connecticut