I thought I was 150% ready to be a middle school band, orchestra, and general music teacher when I was fresh out of college.
It was actually difficult to imagine how anyone could be MORE prepared: my dad was a career music educator and past-president of our state organization as well as my mentor; I’d spent 6 years working in the local music store, so I knew a LOT about bids, purchasing…business stuff in general; plus I was smart, dynamic, excited to work in MIDDLE SCHOOL.
So when my principal handed me my ‘budget’ for the year, I assumed I knew what we were talking about.
But I didn’t.
In other words, someone who was as prepared as a college graduate could be, thanks to all my mentors, teachers, and work experience- not even I was prepared for the business-side of running a successful school music program.
Now don’t get me wrong, I did a lot of things right. Like most music educators, 95% of my concerns were in the classroom. That’s why we teach, after all!
Yet I wish I had known more.
Fast forward about 1,000 years and I’m graduating with my Masters of Business Administration degree (WITH an emphasis on Management and Strategy). I took all those awesome lessons I had learn in the music store, in my classroom, in my private studio, and from Dr. Tim (love that man- named a child after him), and turned them into something viable and marketable.
But my goal wasn’t to join the corporate world and make millions of dollars at some high-paying firm or other. My goal was, and still is, to learn as much as I could about running a business- effectively and efficiently- so that I could use those skills and that knowledge to improve music education.
Ready for the BIG HUGE GINORMOUS SHIFT IN PARADIGM?
As I discovered as a newly minted school music teacher all those years ago: running a music program is like running a small business.
And like most small businesses, it can consume you.
Like a business you have purchasing, receiving, inventory, marketing (recruitment), sales (fundraising), PR (advocacy), human resources (hiring, volunteers), accounting and financial planning! Not to mention the leadership and management skills that have to be used when working with a principal, teacher, or coach.
I’ve spent the last several years working with small business owners of all shapes, sizes, and industries, so I speak from experience here. Running a business can consume you.
That’s what we’re seeing happen in music education today. Teachers come into the schools ready to work and worry about the important thing: what happens in the classroom. That’s what they’ve been prepared for.
But they are NOT prepared to run a small business. And because of this lapse in their education they come into the system wholly unprepared, become disillusioned, and leave.
It’s hard to advocate for the importance of music education when so many of our music educators are leaving the profession. The average rate for teachers is 17% within the first 5 years, according to this article.
It’s also difficult when you’re coming into negotiations with school board members or school principals and you don’t have a business-thinking mind. They do. John Benham had the right idea back in 1982 when he published this article about how to face budget cuts with some business sense.
Okay- enough of my soap box. I’m certain there are many, many music educators out there with their opinions too. But think for just a moment- if we could train teachers how to better manage just ONE of these small-business departments within their program. It could give them more funding, more influence, and more time to do what’s truly important: teach music.
So that’s what I’m going to do: take all my business knowledge and experience, and adapt it to the sacred realm of music education so that YOU, ME, and ALL music educators can have:
And MORE TIME.
Let’s get started.