The vision of the future of music education, as it relates to string instruments and orchestras, has been succinctly stated in five points by the American String Teachers’ Association. Let’s take a look at these points and see in what direction they are pointing us.
First, ASTA’s vision includes “providing access to strings and orchestra for all children, protecting these programs from economic uncertainty, and teaching members how to advocate for these programs.” That’s a tall order. It’s not that string music educators aren’t up to the task, and it’s not that it’s too much to ask. Those of us in the profession are doing this every day, to a certain extent. Some of us are doing more than others – but that’s not the fault of those who are doing less. The truth of the matter is that many younger members of our profession aren’t being taught how to advocate and how to fight for our programs.
The first thing on the chopping block when schools make cuts is always, it seems, the fine arts programs. At least that is what we have been taught by our mentors, especially over the past 20 years. Now, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t necessarily true. However, it leads younger teachers to simply throw up their hands and see it as inevitable, instead of making a conscious effort to fight for their programs and, often, their jobs.
So the question, in my mind, is this – what can we be doing, on the collegiate level, to help our students better understand the NEED to advocate for their programs, and to teach our future educators how to fight for their programs, and in turn, the students in their schools who deserve the same opportunities that we have been given?
I would venture a guess that few music education courses teach future music educators how to write grants, or lobby a legislator, or make a presentation seeking funding to a local corporation. As a group, we know that all students should have access to string programs. There is no argument. But what must we do, not to just to convince others, but to teach our future proponents HOW to convince others of the need for what we do?