“Small-Town Music Program With Big Support”
Bethel-Tate Middle School Music
A small-town music program transformed itself through targeted engagement with school administrators, the superintendent, school board members, and community members into a model for other small, rural districts to follow. With a $50,000 commitment from the school district (along with the continued support from the superintendent, board members, and school administrators), the Bethel-Tate Middle School music program is primed to offer students top-level musical experiences.
Advocacy objectives were to raise the overall profile of the program in the community, provide more musical opportunities for the students, connect with school administrators and board members, and provide new equipment to meet the needs of the growing program.
When I took over the program in 2019, the band and choir were functional, but not held in high regard around the community. It was important to me to change that narrative through all means necessary: enrollment, retention, marketing, financial support, and student achievement (honor bands, etc.).
Students in our program did not participate in our local Ohio Music Education Association (OMEA) honor groups when I started. It was important to broaden our students experience outside of our own district. Through improvement of our program, student participation now leads the way for small schools in our area.
Raising the awareness and value of our program with administrators and the school board was important. Those decision-makers hold power when it comes to support for the arts. Engagement was made on multiple fronts, including: a school presentation at the Ohio School Boards Association Conference, a presentation at the OMEA Professional Development Conference, a Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra “Teacher of the Year” award (2022), the 2023 SupportMusic Merit Award from NAMM, and the recognition of our student achievement at board meetings. Each of those activities engaged with administrators and board members to foster pride in our program.
Equipment needs for the program were apparent when I first started the position. The choir did not have risers (due to a collapse of the risers at a performance a few years earlier). The sound system was from the 70’s and barely functioned for a performance. The band had few instruments to offer in terms of larger instruments (tuba, baritone sax, bass clarinet, etc.).
The main target of this advocacy initiative was the administrators of the Bethel-Tate Local Schools: Principals, Superintendent, and School Board Members. To advocate for ESSER funds, those with the power to make those decisions would need to advocate for the music program. By working closely with the school principals and communicating the growth of the program (along with the needs), they would be able to advocate on my behalf with the superintendent. As a small music program, I receive about $300 budget from the school district each year. I fundraise to make up the rest of the budget. This opportunity to utilize ESSER funds would change the course of the program and make purchases that would be a dream a reality.
- 2020 – Initially inquire with administrators about the availability of ESSER funding for the music program
- October 2021 – Ohio School Boards Association Conference Student Achievement Fair presentation at the Capitol Conference in Columbus, Ohio
- November 2021 – Submission of proposal for 2nd round of ESSER funding for the Bethel-Tate Middle School music program
- May 2022 – Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra “Teacher of the Year” recipient
- April 2022–April 2023 – Purchasing of $50,000 of equipment through ESSER funds delineated for the Bethel-Tate Middle School music program
- February 2023 – OMEA Presentation at the 2023 Professional Development Conference
- May 2023 – 2023 SupportMusic Merit Award from NAMM (one of 78 schools selected)
Overview of Planning and Execution
I initially took sole ownership of the advocacy initiative. It is a very small school district, so the amount of personnel to help with something like this is limited. I curate whatever is needed in terms of application materials for various projects. Whenever I would get to an important part in the timeline, though, I would work very closely with my building principal. She would advocate for our program on my behalf with other important administrators in the district. I also curate all marketing materials to promote our program and campaign.
Tools and Resources
I have used Canva.com to make all promotional material to advocate for our program. I also use various social media platforms for the initiative. Facebook and TikTok are the primary social media resources used, both with my personal school accounts and the official middle school page.
Marketing and Promotion
In this day of age in which social media has such a drastic impact on everyday life, understanding how to utilize it to your advantage responsibly can be very beneficial to your music program. Creating a digital presence for your music program can foster pride and growth among current students, increase recruitment and retention, expand the reach of your program beyond the local landscape, help when the time comes to advocate for your program, and can even help on a personal level in continuing to build a name for yourself. I used primarily social media for this initiative, as well as working closely with administrators. By working with administrators and showing them the positive impacts that our program was making on our students, they were then able to advocate on behalf of the program. The social media strategy reached to our parents, community, and students. Since our return to in person learning following the COVID lockdown and virtual band/choir classes, the middle school program has seen an astonishing 228 percent growth in student participation. As a building, about one-third of our middle school students are involved in the music program, well above the national average of 23 percent in terms of middle school music electives.
No expenditures. All resources utilized were free of charge online.
The first time I approached the administration to inquire about ESSER funds for our program, I was informed that all the funds were already allocated at the time. By approaching the administration about the funds, the next time more ESSER funds were released the music program was included in the allocation and received the $50,000 for the middle school program.
- Bethel-Tate Middle School music received $50,000 in ESSER funds to close the learning gap from the Covid-19 pandemic
- The $50,000 was allocated to the music program by the Bethel-Tate Local School District as a result of the initiative
- 1/3 of Bethel-Tate Middle School currently participates in music as an elective, well above the national average of 23 percent
- The middle school music program 228 percent growth following the restart of the programs following the Covid shutdown
- 2022 Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Teacher of the Year
- 2023 presented at the Ohio Music Educator Association professional development conference
- May 2023 – 2023 SupportMusic Merit Award from NAMM (one of 78 schools selected)
Because of the investment in the music program the administration made, the students have benefited by replacing equipment that had failed and adding additional equipment that gives the students more opportunities. The $50,000 purchase went towards the following equipment:
- Brand new choir risers
- New Sound System for the choir
- 3 Tubas
- 2 Baritones
- 2 Tenor Saxophones
- 2 Bass Clarinets
- 1 Baritone Saxophone
- 1 Concert Bass Drum
- 1 Concert Snare Drum
- Crash Cymbals
Bethel-Tate Middle School was selected for the 2023 SupportMusic Merit Award by the NAMM Foundation. BTMS was one of 78 schools nationally selected for this award and the support from the administration was a large aspect of that award.
Advice for others?
If you are in a small music program, find ways to advocate for your program with your administration so they can assist when the time comes. There is money available to help programs in need. Do not be shy in advocating for yourself, especially if you are a staff of one (like me).