“Music No Matter What”
Mount Olive School District Music Department
Mount Olive School District
Budd Lake, New Jersey
As soon as the pandemic happened, our district was able to supply funding for music software subscriptions for all students. The learning software allowed all of our students to still participate daily in the google meets which helped mimic performing in a full ensemble.
The district helped secure funds for the necessary music PPE in order to make music in-person and safely.
The district also helped secure funds for programs that allowed us to make virtual performances.
My district never stopped music from taking place in the classroom even when other districts stopped their programs all together.
Mount Olive School District understands the importance of music education and the service it provides for our students and school community. They never required us to stop making music, but trusted us that we could continue to make music together and not in isolation, but most importantly safely.
Our students persevered as well and they were adaptable. They understood that we wanted to keep playing together, but that some things were going to have to change. (i.e. socially distanced, music masks, bell covers, limited music making time, ending class early and beginning some late in order to allow for air exchanges).
Teachers and students involved in music remained positive and worked through any and all challenges presented to them that would keep them from making music.
The target audience for the pandemic perseverance was both administration and students. Both parties had to equally understand that we did not have to stop making music, but that would have to adapt the ways in which we make music. They trusted the scientific data from the national and international aerosol studies and went forth with the guidelines we presented. They allowed us to keep music alive in our schools and community.
Our timeline is still continuing. We started our advocacy initiative of pandemic perseverance the first day of virtual learning back in March 2019 and we are continuing to persevere today. Things like music masks, social distancing, bell covers are not deemed a necessity at this point, but keeping students in our programs is. Many of the students we are seeing had to learn how to play during the pandemic or were just starting to learn. Our recruitment and retention efforts needed to change, and once again the district has supported these efforts.
Overview of Planning and Execution
I as the Department Chair of Music for grades 6-12 would alert building principals of the needs of our music department. Once I had their support, I then worked with both the Director of Secondary Schools and Elementary Schools who worked with both our Director of Technology and Superintendent to secure the necessary funds for any programs and PPE we requested. Our Business Administrator for the district was also involved in helping secure any and all necessary funds.
Tools and Resources
We used the Smart Music software program as well as the Music First software program. Every student was given a music mask, and bell covers. The school also purchased instrument bags for an extra layer of protection. We used tape to mark our floors and had multiple hand sanitizing stations installed throughout our music hallways.
Marketing and Promotion
I would use twitter to highlight what our teachers and students were accomplishing in and out of the classroom. I was also in constant contact with administration and parents updating them on the latest guidelines that were being released for the arts and COVID. Many of our ensembles also did virtual performances that were used within our school community and beyond. Many videos were used for the middle and high school graduations as well.
My district has spent over $7000 between 2019-2021 on music PPE. They have spent over $4000 on online music software between 2019-2022. Lastly between 2019-2020 my district spent over $1000 on virtual performances. These expenditures would come out of the music budget, technology, or through use of funds the district was awarded because of the pandemic. These were all expenditures that were not planned, but my district persevered through the pandemic and allowed our students to still participate in our programs.
The biggest obstacle we face other than cost, would be retention. Some parents and students were concerned with the safety of participating in our music ensembles. We had the biggest problem of retention in our elementary programs from end of the 2019 school year through 2021. We attribute this specifically to the pandemic. It is very challenging trying to learn an instrument at the elementary level in isolation. Learning how to play an instrument is a very hands on experience for both student and teacher. Luckily, at the middle and high school level our retention numbers haven’t suffered as much.
I would absolutely say our initiative was effective. Our district and the students within it persevered and made music at a point in their lives where it was difficult. Our administration supports and values music and the service it provides for our students AND community. The students have persevered through bell covers and masks and have come out stronger as individuals and musicians on the other end.
Our music programs are seen as a sense of pride in the Mount Olive community. Our students have been invited to perform at various school-wide and community events. Just recently our board of education recognized many of our music students for their efforts in music. They also invited our high school Wind Ensemble students to perform, and have requested more musical performances at their meetings to highlight the amazing work out students do.
Advice for others?
I hope no one has to replicate a lot of what music departments went through during the pandemic, but something I took out of this time was the importance of advocacy. Music and what we do within our school walls should be seen, heard, and valued.