The Importance Of Going Places, Public Relations And Getting Feedback

On Monday we took the Grove City College Marching Wolverine Band to one of the many festivals that we attend each year. This was not a festival that we have attended in the past. Typically, the band heads south from GCC and attends many of the bigger Pittsburgh area festivals and marching shows. On Monday, we headed east to the Allegheny-Clarion Valley school district.

It was great to arrive at Allegheny-Clarion High school and see the rural school setting. It’s nestled in a valley between and among the many hills of the area. The football field laid un-surrounded by fences, open and directly in front of the school. As a matter of fact there weren’t any bleachers. But, there were hundreds of people who brought their lawn chairs and sprawled out over every inch of the low rise hill on the home side of the field.

There were a number of high school bands at the festival that ranged in size from just over twenty to a little less than a hundred. They were smaller sized bands most likely due to the location and population of their school districts. They played their hearts out and did a fine job that night.

When our band played, “we brought the house down”. It was great to be appreciated that night by all that were involved and attending the show but, the thing that impressed me most was afterward, when we began to receive emails about our performance. These came not only from the host of the show but also from the people in attendance…the emails arrived that very night.

It was extremely encouraging to receive such an onslaught of emails. I’m not sure who or what caused this to happen, but we’ve never had such a “day after response” of feedback. This made me think a little bit more about how much great events like this are “taken for granted” and can be quickly forgotten and under-appreciated the moment they are finished…

When you stop to think about the magnitude of what must be accomplished to have a band festival -the logistics are staggering. By the time the host gets the facility scheduled and staffed on the day of the event, has the ticket and concession stand stocked and operating, deploys the traffic control measures, sets up the sound system, procures the seating assignments, prepares the award ceremonies, readies the restrooms and discovers the “nack” of being a meteorologist, they might have al little time to prepare their own band! This list doesn’t even account for the amount of prepartions that the attending directors and band members must make in order to even be at the event (think about the time it takes to simply coordinate and acquire the 20+ buses that will be converging at the event).

All of these things considered, the one item that must be taken into consideration regarding the success of the show and may be the one thing that can make or break it is…PUBLIC RELATIONS. This area may be the most overlooked and least understood particular of the entire process. All the many subtleties that come under the term “public relations” must be mastered by the host band director and at many different levels:

  • the host director and their band
  • the host director and their boosters/band parents
  • the host director and their administration
  • the host director and the guest bands
  • the host director and the public

Each one of these areas must have attention in order for the festival (or any performance for that matter) to be a total success. Most band directors have a good grasp of the first three items on the list, many, the fourth, but the last item seems to evade a lot of the directors. If you want your program to be well attended and understood by your community, you have to spend time telling them why it’s important to attend and why your program is important to the community.

I know that seems simple, but it’s not. The last few posts at www.mustech.net have been about music advocacy and for good reason: If you are not the foremost advocate of your program and what your students are doing in your program then you can expect the exact same attitude toward your program from the public…stop…period…end of story. If you are not excited about your program (no matter how large or how small), your group will not be excited about their program and consequently no one will be excited about the program at all. It’s Reageanomics for performing ensembles…it “trickles down from the top”… I call it Pisanomics (not really!).

So the real question is: How do we get the community excited about the great things that are happening with our programs? I have some suggestions:

  1. BE YOUR BEST ADVOCATE: You must become excited about and believe in your program(s)…
  2. YOUR STUDENTS MUST BECOME THEIR BEST ADVOCATES: The students must become excited and believe in their program(s)
  3. ACQUIRE MORE ADVOCATES: You and your students must spread that excitement to everyone you/they personally know by telling them about your/their program and performances
  4. PERFORM A PRESS BLITZ: Invite the local media to everything. You must do more than a simple press release for the local paper…try to get a “write up”. Invite a reporter into your band room or have them do a special about some of your students. Invite the local cable company to broadcast your event on the local cable channel. Start a blog about your program and classes. Make sure there is a section in the school paper about the music dept. and invite the other teachers/coaches to your event(s).
    Most band directors I know “hate” the idea of having to “jump through the hoops” regarding public relations. The problem is that just because they don’t like to “jump” -doesn’t mean they shouldn’t. It get’s easy after the first few go-arounds.
  5. ADVOCATE MUSIC CONTINUALLY: Never stop talking about music, at home, with your friends, with your colleagues. Write a blurb about why music is important on the back of each program at every event and talk about it in conversation with your fellow teachers. Don’t lecture people though, nobody wants to come to a performance and be lectured…they want to experience music and have fun. Have fun at every one of your performances and in your classes.
  6. GET OUT OF THE BOX: Take the time to visit your colleagues in neighboring school districts and their performances; invite them to yours. Visit and discuss music with the other music teachers in your district, see how the deal with “block scheduling” and other potential problems that face many of us. Make the time to see what others are doing in the “bigger picture”. Going to music conferences can provide a great deal of encouragement and ideas. Don’t miss any opportunity because you are content with your program or too tired (everyone is, it’s not unique); strive to improve always.
  7. STOP THE NEGATIVE ATTITUDE: Nothing spreads as fast as negativity, except perhaps, positivity. Every time you go into a class or rehearsal with a negative attitude it will be transferred to your students and multiplied by the number of them.
  8. THANK EVERYBODY, PROVIDE FEEDBACK: If someone helped you out, no matter how small, let them know about it. Feedback is analagous to “comeback”. If you want people to continue to help and be a part of your program, you need to let them know that they impacted it, are appreciated or helped in someway… A concert performance without an audience is nothing more than a rehearsal. A band with only one member is a soloist.

Wow, this was a lot longer than the 3 paragraph blurb I was going to write! Please let us know what you do to promote your band, ensembles or classes, what works well with your public relations strategies. Join our “global conversation” by leaving a comment below! :)

mustch.net

[tags] “grove city college”, gcc, wolverine, pisano, mustech.net, “music advocacy”, “marching band” [/tags]

Joseph M. Pisano, Ph.D. is the creator of many education websites, a lecturer, clinician, trumpeter, and conductor. He is currently the Associate Chair of Music and Director of Bands in the Calderwood School of Arts at Grove City College in PA. He been named a TI:ME Teacher of the Year, received the JEN Jazz Educator Award and the PA Citation of Excellence. He is a past Vice President of the Technology Institute for Music Educators and the current Vice-President of the PA Intercollegiate Bandmasters Association. He also writes for DCI Magazine, Teaching Music Magazine, and is the Educational Editor for In-Tune Monthly Magazine; he has contributed hundreds of articles to various publications. Find out more at his website jpisano.com.
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