How Can I Support Music Programs in Schools?
We’ve enjoyed celebrating Music In Our Schools Month, this March. The month may be coming to an end, but Music in our schools does not become any less important throughout the other 11 months of the year. If you’re like me, you care about music and you want children to be given the opportunity to learn to play musical instruments. However, at times it is difficult to know how you can make a difference, and make sure children in our community are being given musical opportunities. Here is a list of ways you can show your support for local music programs.
“You can attend school board meetings to let board members know that music in the schools is important.”
By doing this, you go straight to the heads of your local schools, to let them know that you care about music programs. If enough people show up at school board meetings and fight for this, they cannot be ignored. You can find information on the Lancaster school system and board meetings, here:
Below are links to all 16 school district governing boards containing contact information for your district.
“You can write editorials or letters to the editor of the local newspaper about the importance of music.”
If you write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, you can let the community at large know that you think music education is important. The more people who realize how music education is often a neglected aspect of young students‘ education, the better. By writing editorials in your local newspaper, you can let the community know, and spur others into action. You can submit a letter to editor of the Lancaster Newspaper this link: http://lancasteronline.com/opinion/letters_to_editor/
“You can do something to support a school music teacher. Maybe give a gift or at least tell them how much you appreciate all that they do.”
If you know any school music teachers, let them know how much you support them. If you have a child who is in a school music program, give their music teacher a gift, a
note, or even a kind word. In some schools, music educators feel alone in the fight for more music programs and funding. While Math or English teachers can feel secure in the knowledge that their program will always be considered essential, music teachers are often taken for granted. Let them know you support their work, and let them know what you are doing to support music programs in their school.
“You can write a check to an organization that promotes music or supports music education.”
Nonprofit organizations such as Music For Everyone work to support music programs by donating instruments and funds directly to the music programs of local schools. You can support Music For Everyone by donating directly to us, or by attending one of our events, such as this weekend’s Festival of Voices, which you can find more information on here: https://musicforeveryone.org/event/the-2016-festival-of-voices/.
“You can attend a music performance at a school.”
Many Lancaster schools will be having spring concerts in April and May. You can find the information for several upcoming Lancaster School District concerts here:
http://www.lancaster.k12.pa.us/. The McCaskey Gospel Choir Spring Concert will be held at the JP McCaskey Auditorium on April 16 at 6:00 p.m. This Friday, the Pequea Valley High School Choir and the Susquehanna Waldorf School will both be performing at MFE’s Festival of Voices.
Another way you can make your voice heard is by contacting your representatives at the state and federal levels.
You can find a list of all the Lancaster County State Representatives here: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/county_list.cfm?CNTYLIST=LANCASTER
Contact Senator Bob Casey here: https://www.casey.senate.gov/contact/
Contact Senator Pat Toomey here: https://www.toomey.senate.gov/?p=contact
Contact your Federal Representatives here: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/PA
There are many different ways you can advocate for music programs. Pick one or two, or click on one of the links we’ve provided, and go from there. Another simple way you can support music programs in our local schools is by letting your friends and family know what you are doing, and why you are doing it. Word of mouth is a great way to spread the word and raise support. Find a friend to accompany you to a local school’s spring concert or board meeting. Together, we can raise so much more support than any of us can alone.
Continuing Music For Everyone’s tradition of providing music to all in Lancaster county each year MFE provides seven, $2,000 scholarships to Millersville University Music Education majors. In exchange for that scholarship the recipients volunteer at a school supported by MFE. Featured below are two MFE scholars, Andrew Swartz and Cecilia. Currently the two scholars are assisting in teaching recorder and other instruments before school at Buchanan Elementary.
Andrew Swartz’s music journey started when his parent’s had him take piano lessons as a young child. His father was one of his biggest influences in music. Being a pianist himself, he wanted Andrew to learn how to play. This parental encouragement caused the young Suzuki method child to begin a strong work ethic that has transferred well into his music education major. Now Andrew is also proficient in trombone, saxophone, and his main focus is percussion.
With his roots of strong family influence, Andrew sees music as a “community thing”. He sees that more people can do music, whether it be playing or enjoying. Andrew also loves the “feels” of music. There is a value in experiencing a piece with a group of people through the process of learning, performing, and enjoying a piece.
What Andrew loves about music is that in that communal learning process there is a direct reflection of the time a musician puts into their craft and how they perform. It is easy to see the progression overtime in the development as a musician continues to work and improve. But his music education major comes at a price. Music ed majors have a packed schedule. Between rehearsals and practicing there is not really much time for anything else. Music is a seven days a week major. While Andrew does not always agree with teaching methods used, as a student he cannot correct his mentors. Another difficulty is always staying healthy. Like an athlete, musicians have to stay in shape and try to avoid carpal tunnel (particularly as a percussionist), hearing loss, headache, and general fatigue. Andrew also mentions that it is important to make time for yourself to keep a good mental attitude.
With all these things in mind Andrew continues on because he wants to get better and be a good player. He also recognizes that if he teaches high school there is a very real possibility he may come across a student who is better than him and he wants to be able to teach that student the best that he can. Also once a musician starts teaching there is not much time to practice so right now, Andrew has the time to become the best he can.
Andrew became a music education major because he wants to teach music, but he also knows music can take you anywhere. As a personal charge he sees himself as responsible for educating students and believes he owes it to them to give kids the opportunity to see what music can do for an individual as a person. Upon graduation, Andrew wants to teach elementary students because he wants to get kids hooked on music when they are young.
Cecilia Cooper is a cheerful woman with a clear passion for music, especially music education. Cecilia, a Reading Pennsylvania native, comes from a long line of music educators and teachers and she “couldn’t imagine doing anything else”. Similar to her fellow MFE Scholar she began with piano lessons at a young age, but like many young children she never practiced. Now she plays violin and her concentration is voice.
Being an MFE scholar and music education major Cecilia loves to teach her students all that she has learned at Millersville the last two years. As a freshman, she realized how much she did not know about music and loves giving other kids the head start she did not have. She also just loves teaching. While it was scary to be in the classroom for the first time, she loves seeing the impact music education has on her students.
Cecilia also recognizes the difficulties in being a music major. She says that you can never practice enough. With homework you can complete it and be done, but when you do not do as well your mind goes to “I should have practiced more”. This creates the notion of “I should be practicing right now”. Cecilia is learning that it is ok to sometimes not be practicing. She also says that vocal health is especially important for her, and sometimes trying to stay healthy is a struggle. Like all college students she is concerned about her future and her future career.
Through all the struggles Cecilia loves to see her own improvement. She also wants her students to look up to her as a teacher and a musician. All the practicing will pay off in the credibility she will gain as an educator and a musician. Cecilia chose music education because her friends hated music class and she wants to be the music teacher kids deserve. She loves kids, particularly little kids, and wants to be an elementary music teacher. Cecilia’s main desire is to make music a good experience for her students.
Choral music originated in the 2nd century BC in ancient Greece, where the chorus was an important part of the theater. Choral music fizzled out for a while, but around 500 AD, Benedictine and Gregorian monks began to sing in unison, in what was called “plainchant.” In order to vary the plainchant, which could become monotonous, composers began to write more interesting melodies above the plainchants, in effect creating polyphony (several different parts harmonizing with each other). Soon, these harmonies became more complex as composers were given more freedom. When composers wanted to create higher melodies, female voices were added to the mix.
Traditionally, choral music became a form of worship, most often heard in churches. As we’ll see at Festival of Voices, there are many different types of choral music. The performers who will appear at the festival represent diverse groups. One of the groups will be the MFE Community Chorus, which provides a place for people of any age, or skill level to join in a community of voices. There will be representation from local schools and universities as well. Millersville University’s Chromatic Expansion, the Lancaster Bible College Chorus, the Susquehanna Waldorf School, and the Pequea Valley High School Chorale will all be performing. Another exciting group that will be performing is The Cat’s Pajamas, an a cappella group of five men who have been featured on America’s Got Talent and The Sing-Off.
Why choral music? A 2009 study by Chorus Impact showed that choral music has a positive impact on childhood development and on a student’s academics. It also teaches valuable life skills. Choral singing brings people together, giving them a valuable sense of community and an outlet for artistic expression. When I was in high school, I was hesitant to join my school’s choral group, but I finally did, at the request of several friends. I had always enjoyed singing, but being in front of people made me nervous. Joining the chorus helped me to build relationships; it also helped me to grow more confident. By the end of my senior year, I was singing duets and even solos with a confidence I could not have found anywhere else.
The Festival of Voices will provide a supportive venue for diverse groups of singers, and will even end in a special edition of Acapellus360. Anyone can enter as long as they prepare 2 songs and bring at least 3 friends to help them sing. These songs must be performed a cappella, with no instrumental backing. Winners will receive a prize pack of goodies form Tellus360.
Learn more about this year’s 2016 Festival of Voices. This year is our biggest festival to date. We will have several performances at multiple venues, with free choral workshops, a film series, and an entire weekend of celebrating the power of the human voice!
Music for Everyone is gearing up and warming up for a wonderful weekend of music April 1-3 with Festival of Voices. For our fourth year we will be celebrating choral music through various concerts, workshops, and a movie showing. Many of our acts are local such as the Red Rose City Chorus and Mennonite Children’s choir of Lancaster; but this year we are pleased to have Orfeia, a unique group from Maryland/ Washington DC area. They will be performing in a free concert Friday April 1 at Trinity Lutheran Church on Duke Street in Lancaster.
Orfeia is a woman’s ensemble whose main focus is preserving the music of Bulgaria and Eastern Europe. Seeking to uphold a longstanding musical tradition from Eastern Europe, Russia, Bulgaria, and the Balkans Orfeia choses a music with different backgrounds. Due to the different styles and types of music we may be treated to some lovely unique harmonies, village songs, custom songs, children’s songs and much more. They also often perform in traditional dress to keep with the audience in the spirit of being in Eastern Europe.
The group began in 2006 and was founded by the famous Bulgarian singer Tatiana Sarbinska. Tatiana is a Bulkan born composer, educator, and director. Music was a large part of her life growing up, and eventually becaming very well known. She sang for many well-known groups throughout Europe and upon moving to the United State she has led many choirs, sharing her culture with us.
Due to many of Tatiana’s connections Orfeia is also a well-traveled group, having a history of performing in Bulgaria at galas, festivals and even appearing on Bulgarian radio shows and late night television. A colorful group with a wonderful history will be a pleasure to have at this year’s Festival of Voices.
To learn more about Orfeia you can visit their website at https://orfeia.wordpress.com/ or Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Orfeia-276421249048259/
To get more updates on Festival of Voices and even some song samples of the performers follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/lancasterfestivalofvoices/