Making Administrators Your Allies

The following article is reprinted with the permission of School Band & Orchestra magazine. The article is from the May/June issue 1998. Subscriptions to School Band & Orchestra magazine may be made by contacting them at: 100 Wells Avenue, Newton, MA 02159, Voice: 1-800-869-7469 or 617-964-5100; Fax: 617-964-2752; E-mail:


Making Administrators Your Allies

by Tracy E. Leenman


No doubt, we music educators are under a great deal of pressure from administrators as well as from parents and students. We are continually faced with budget cuts, scheduling conflicts, inadequate facilities and instruments in disrepair. Much of the time that we would like to spend teaching, we have to spend fundraising, disciplining, doing paperwork, even doing lunchroom duty. Many of us feel grossly unprepared to teach in the educational climate of the 1990s. (About fundraising: in 1995, a record 70 percent of money for high school music programs across the country came from fundraising. Do you know of any chemistry or English teachers who are asked to provide 70 percent of their budget through fundraising, in addition to all their other teaching responsibilities?) One of the keys to building a strong music program is building a strong relationship with your administration. By making your administrators your allies, you will be able to make your job easier, and to protect and strengthen your music program at the same time. Here's how:

1. Keep up with your book keeping. It's one of the least appealing parts of your job, I know, but it's one of the most important. Your administrators may not understand the importance of a balanced instrumentation, or of proper instrument maintenance. Your job is to paint a clear picture of the band program you wish to build at your school, and to be able to justify the cost of it. If you want your budget proposals to be received favorably by your administrators, you will need to present them in an or ganized manner, with a sound rationale for all your requests.

Keep an inventory record of all equipment owned by your school; and for each instrument, a detailed record of all repair expenses and of all accessories that belong with the instrument. Most woodwinds and low brass instruments have an average life of 15 years; and trumpets, French horns, trombones and drums, 10 years - that is, assuming regular maintenance, including a complete overhaul every three to five years. When you include in your annual budget any instruments that should be repaired, overhauled or replaced in the coming year, include depreciation and maintenance schedules to support your requests. Be sure to explain to your administrator that keeping an instrument in good condition through regular repairs and periodic overhauls will add to its useable life. (Also, be sure to explain when requesting funds for instrument purchases that better made instruments will last longer than lower-priced ones.)

Make a chart of the projected growth and instrumentation of your program over the next five to seven years, and include it in your requests for music, instrument and equipment purchases. Your administrators will be pleased to see just bow your program is growing, and you can encourage them to keep this growth in mind when allowing you funds for your pro-gram.


2. Cite facts and figures. In your facilities and equipment proposals, quote the professional stan-dards set forth nationally for school music programs. Refer to the music program descriptions provided by MENC and other educational organi-zations, by the National Coalition, and by manufacturers, some of which include criteria as specific as height of ceilings, percent humidity, reverbera-tion in time (to the 1/10 second) and foot-candles of lighting required, for both "basic program" and "quality program" standards. Saying "we need more band music" is not nearly as effective as: "Our professional organi-zation, the Music Educators National Conference, defines a 'quality program' as including a music library of at least four titles per student enrolled in the music program, with an annual increase in size of at least 5%." (What administrator wouldn't want to have a "quality program"?)


3. Explain your program's needs in terms administrators will nderstand. They may not understand, "Our band could use an alto clarinet to add additional timbre to our low woodwind sound," but they might relate to, "MENC standards state that a 'quality program' in a middle or high school includes at least two alto clarinets; and besides, this would give us a fuller, richer sound, and allow our children to compete on a more equal level with the other bands at our festival."


4. Promote the benefits of music education - both musical and non-musical - to your administrators - constantly. Whenever new research or new statistics are published, make sure you give your administrators (a short) summary. When the SAT score updates appear in the Music Educators Journal each year, give your administrators a copy. And consider giving each of your administrators a copy of UMI's Spin-Offs: The Extra-Musical Advantages of a Musical Education or MENC's The Gift of Music as a Christmas gift.


5. Personally invite your administrators to all your performances. Include local school board members, PTA leaders, district officials, etc. (And write them a per-sonal thank-you note if they should attend.) They will see first-hand the progress your students are making, and hear first-hand the enthusiastic com-ments of the parents. They will feel the children's excitement, and they will feel more a part of your program.


6. Aim for "TOMA" (Top of m Mind Awareness, a term borrowed from the realm of marketing) for your music program in your com-munity. Work with the media as much as possible. Administrators are very PR-conscious, and publicity will make a very positive impression on them. And, they know that increased public-ity for your program means increased publicity for their school.


7. Put children first! Focusing on "what is best for the chil-dren" will encourage your administrator to do the same. And if you have provided him with the proper back-ground information, he will undoubt-edly see that what is best for the children is a strong music program!


 Do you know of any ... English teachers who are asked to provide 70 percent of their budget through fundraising?


TRACY E. LEENMAN earned her Bachelor of Music (magna cum laude) and Masters Music degrees from Syracuse University and has done additional course work at the Eastman School of Music. She has 27 years of teaching experience at the elementary through college levels, including choral music, instrumental music, classroom music, private teaching, church choir directing, and teaching conducting and rehearsal techniques. As director of sales and marketing of the Band & Orchestra Division of Pecknel Music Company, Leenman directs the company's various educational outreach, promotional, and development programs. She is the industry representative to the Executive Board of the South Carolina Music Educators Association, and the president of the South Carolina Coalition for Music Education. She is a guest conductor, clinician, lecturer, and has recently served on the National Outreach Committee for National Association of Music Merchant's Charlie Horse Music Pizza Experience.


Pecknel Music Company was founded in 1959 by George Peck, a retired band director Since its origin, the company has been known as "The Music Education Company" because of its focus on school music programs. Mr. Peck's grandson, Scott Peck, has been president of the company since 1987. Scott is a member of the Board of Directors of NAMM, and has previously served on the Board of Directors of NASMD, on the Gemeinhardt Advisory Council, and as President of the National Association of Young Music Merchants (NAYMM).