Studio to School

On A New Note: Music is Instrumental

The principles our team focused in Year 5 were:

(1) Create a shared vision for arts education programming through an inclusive and ongoing planning process

(5) Provide varied, relevant and high-quality opportunities for students to engage in arts learning

(6) Create a school environment in which arts learning can thrive

Q: When you think about the principles your team was focused on this year, what went particularly well this year? Why?

A: A strength of our project over the past 5 years has been the project management team ~ a true learning community. Our dedicated team includes music teachers Mike Freel, Karin Teisl and Gwen Lahti; principals Nick Lupo, Becca Bostwick and Sandy Mummey: LCSD Director Majalise Tolan; Lincoln City Cultural Center ED Niki Price; Chuck Feist, Director of Endowment; Christine Tell, Director of Operations; and our Director of the Music is Instrumental Board, Mark Sanders. We met monthly through Year 5 and monitored goals, planned activities, managed budget and shared progress. The primary focus of our Year 5 efforts was how we would sustain all we had built over the prior four years, particularly the current program that now supports a quality music education program for 1,200 students over 3 schools. The school principals stepped up with continued staffing of a full-time music specialist in each building and inclusion in the curriculum of the sequential music program in grades K – 5, mandatory 6th grade music and electives in choir and band for students in grades 7 – 12. The Lincoln City Cultural Center under the leadership of Niki Price mined funding sources and worked with schools on small grants to continue funding our outreach efforts. Students attended theatre productions, experienced the sounds of world music artists and enjoyed dancers from Irish folk to ballet.  Sound of Nature, Sound of Art provided an integrated arts experience on a grand scale for 350 students at Taft 7 -12. Finally, as the Siletz Bay Music Festival changed leadership and struggled for operating funds, members of our management team formed a new 501 3 (c) non-profit Music is Instrumental (MII) on November 1, 2018 to house what Studio to School had built and sustain music education for all students into the future. The project management team formed the new board and advisory for MII. With great enthusiasm and the support of our community MII has currently raised about $60,000. Our mission is to Support high quality music education, performances and instruments for students on the Central Oregon Coast.

Q: Were you able to make progress regarding the principles you selected? If so, how would you describe that progress? (Hint: the rubric may be helpful here).  If not, what got in the way?

A: As mentioned above, progress on creating a shared vision for arts programming through an inclusive and on-going planning process was primarily achieved by the management team through the formation of a non-profit, Music is Instrumental (MII), see Music is Instrumental. Community members rallied their support to sustain what Studio to School had created over 4 years. With features in the local press, our community learned about what students had gained.  In February 2019, at a fundraiser held over two evenings, community members responded to a presentation of the MII story by our Lincoln City School principals with generous donations and support. Recently, MII was awarded a grant by the Oregon Community Foundation to extend quality music education programming further into Lincoln County School District Schools to Waldport Middle School.  Our community’s 2nd largest employer the Salishan Resort is sponsoring a series of free summer concerts with 5% of food and beverage sales going to MII, see Salishan Summer Concert Series. As our management team/MII Board remains in place through the 2019-20 school year and beyond we are assured that quality arts education in music will be guided with wisdom as well as sustained.

With the Lincoln City Cultural Center under the leadership of Niki Price, as our partner we are able to sustain our promise to provide varied, relevant and high-quality opportunities for students to engage in arts learning through outreach. The range and quality of visiting artists provides opportunities for all students to experience professional musicians, actors, visual artists and dancers at work.

In adherence to our third principle, we chose to create a school environment in which arts learning can thrive.  This has proven to be the most challenging because we are committed to ALL students having sequential music program grades K-5, required 6th grade band or choir and a full range of music electives from grades 7 – 12. Creating access for ALL students to music K-12 resulted in our having very large classes particularly in grade 6 where band is a mandatory, full year course and in grades 7-12 where more students are continuing music. Our challenge has been to provide expert technicians to support music teachers in the classroom. These retired musicians and music educators are hired as contract employees of MII and paid $30 per hour to instruct students individually and in “sectionals” including: Percussion, brass, wind, flutes and choir during class time. The initial stages of learning a musical instrument can be frustrating without individual attention. Our expert technicians provide high quality support to the music teacher. For example, individual students receive instruction on how to hold the instrument and produce sound. The technician may take a small group of students in sectionals e.g. percussion, and work on needed skills. He/she may work with soloists before an upcoming performance. They also assist the classroom teacher with performance assessments throughout the year to determine individual student’s progress. The professional training/experience of our expert technicians must be unparalleled for a small rural community. Finally, we have created an “Instrument Library” of over 300 instruments so that no student is denied access to music due to lack of funds for an instrument. Students check out an instrument for use during the school year. Students and parents sign a commitment to care for the instrument throughout the year, practice regularly at home, and perform in all concerts and state competitions. At the end of the year, instruments are checked in and damages assessed. Instruments are checked out during the summer to students who have fulfilled their commitment and demonstrated responsibility.

Q: Was selecting and reflecting on these principles helpful? If so, how has selecting and reflecting on these principles shaped your work going forward?

A: The principles we chose provide the focus needed to set priorities, organize programs and target fundraising. We are able to clearly delineate our responsibilities as opposed to the universe of possibilities in creating and sustaining a K-12 music program.

Since 2014, and the inception of our Studio to School Project we have advocated for and delivered on quality sequential music programs for ALL students. As the principles evolved and our work became complex, we had the tools to focus our efforts and began to see results. The accomplishments of our students are touted in the local press and social media with an enthusiasm formerly reserved for athletics. Our music program has been honored with community awards and invited to countless organizations and special events, parades, etc. The real lesson is that our students have improved musically, academically and socially. Attendance is up and our on-time graduation rates have gradually increased over the last 4 years. This is what a focus on the arts can do for students in any community in Oregon.

Q: What advice would you give to other arts education programs that want to build program quality, equity or sustainability using the principles?

A: Two pieces of advice we believe are critical when using 1 – 3 principles as the “backbone” for your arts education program:

  1. Form a team of committed individuals who will champion your arts education program. Include school staff and those who are “decicion-makers” like principals. Meet with your team regularly (e.g. once a month breakfast).  Through your conversations see what principles resonate with your team and stage of development of your project. Consult the rubric. Select 1-3 principles to begin your work. Let the principles guide your business decisions. Be open to change when it makes sense.
  2. Tell your story.  Bring in outside sources or data from your own community to make the case for sustained, funded arts education. Engage the media. Take pictures and video. Set up a website. Get kids in front of the community. Celebrate achievements and the culture/environment that is being created for kids in your school. 

In closing: We want to convey our gratitude to the Oregon Community Foundation and Studio to School Project staff for a truly life-changing effort in Lincoln City. You have made it possible for us to impact the lives of our students!   

Christine Tell, Project Lead
Niki Price, Lincoln City Cultural Center Executive Director
Mark Sanders, Director of the Music is Instrumental Board.

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