Program Health

While most music educators plan for one or two big annual performances, Brandon Felder, the music director of SHABACH! Christian Academy in Landover, Maryland, tries something different. 
Hundreds of elementary, middle and high school musicians eagerly look out over the crowd of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, home of the Nashville Symphony. These students have spent months preparing for this day and their hard work is about to pay off.
Curricular guitar and ukulele courses have gained traction in both elementary and secondary education, and for good reason! Traditional ensembles (band, orchestra and choir) still play a vital role in music education, but guitar and ukulele instruction help us engage a wider range of students in the joys and benefits of making music.
On a muggy Texas evening in May 2020 during the height of the pandemic, I sat in the Diffee family’s driveway out in the country with a group of smiling new faces — the Forney (Texas) High School Band boosters.
Every fall, band director Joel Pohland starts fielding the same question — “When is jazz night?” — from excited members of his community in Pierz, Minnesota. Even though jazz night, which takes place in April, may be at least six months away, it’s still on everyone’s mind.
Every day, I feel blessed to go to work, excited to make music with my students. These kids are some of the most humble, diligent and talented young people from some of the most selfless and genuine families I have ever met. There is no group of students I would rather teach or no community in which I would rather serve … but my job is sometimes far from perfect.
I am the music education coordinator at Tennessee State University (TSU), a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in Nashville. I oversee the curricular development, instructional delivery, staffing, clinical placement and academic advising for our vocal and instrumental music education students. Annually, we prepare nearly 200 music majors for careers in music, and we offer a variety of degree pathways with several concentrations.
In 2018, Amanda Schoolland moved to the small community of Metlakatla, Alaska, to be the music director at Metlakatla High School. Although she was new to the area, she noticed that many of her students faced a similar issue as those at her former schools in Colorado — a lack of time or space to practice at home.
When Heather Taylor became the band director at Lakeshore Elementary School in Rochester, New York, in 2018, she had an $80 annual budget.
Hard work is an essential component of a thriving program, but your plan for how you strategically achieve it can make all the difference. As a doctoral student, I took some courses in human resource management, educational leadership, and policy studies and learned about the importance of a strategic plan.

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