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Return to Music Resources - Helping Teachers, Administrators, Students

By Dr. James Weaver and Team on April 21, 2021 music directors & adjudicators article Print

What does music look like as we move into 2021-2022? The Return to Music Project wants to make the lives of music educators easier moving forward as we advocate for our programs, plan for the upcoming school year, and try to keep the music alive in our schools across the nation.

The Return to Music Project will be broken down into different content areas and released in three phases during the course of the next 6 months. 

Phase I will focus on: Scheduling, Recruitment, RetentionAdvocacy, Performances and Evaluating Your Students

Phase II will focus on: Teacher Well Being, Student SEL, Curriculum Adjustments, Zero to Hero Music, School Owned Equipment and Uniforms, Reimagining Classroom Procedures, Student Eligibility

Phase III will focus on: Walking Back into the Classroom

Other Resources: Music Teacher Thank You Video, NFHS Music YouTube Channel


We encourage you to share this information far and wide around your state. The more music educators that can get their hands on these resources, the better.  

Preparing to return, you must begin your year as organized as possible. How was the rehearsal room left? Is it a time capsule from 3/13/20 or were things moved around? If you expect to accomplish this during your scheduled teacher work days just prior to the beginning of school, you are already behind! Teacher in-service days are generally filled with meetings, workshops, and orientations for new staff, new procedures, and an attempt to understand post-pandemic education. In order to have everything in place by the first bell, you are going to have to work prior to in-service until everything is ready. Start sooner than later!

One of the first issues to tackle is that many things will be different. Everyone will need support and ways to talk through the changes and work together. It will be important to identify student leaders in your program, if student leaders exist, you should discuss potential changes to gain their support. This will serve to facilitate next steps with the other returning students. If not, take it a step at a time and know that staff and students alike will be excited and nervous to be back in school and it may feel different than the pre-pandemic feel. Discuss prior collaborations that existed in the performing arts department and identify what can return and what might need to be tweaked.


Phase I:


This is your time to be an advocate for your program! Ask to be at the table, in planning meetings, and in schedule discussions to ensure your music program is considered and maintained! The schedule the admin team tentatively creates now will change before the fall so make sure you are part of every conversation. Be a listener, consider all scenarios, but also be an advocate. Think outside the box and work WITH your admin team on solutions that impact your program. This is your opportunity to continue building a collaborative relationship with your admin team and they will appreciate an open minded, problem-solver approach. While you need to defend your program, don’t get defensive!

Want to learn more about School Schedule Changes, Talking to your Administrator, Being a Part of the Conversation, Counselors Office, Pull Out Lessons, and Summer Camps?

Communication with Administrators (Video)

Download the FREE graphic to share



One of the most significant challenges teachers face during the pandemic is recruiting and retaining students. Health requirements have presented inconveniences and even impossible roadblocks for students to find the same satisfaction in rehearsing and performing that they may have had under normal circumstances. Teachers will need to go above and beyond normal recruitment practices to reach out to potential students. This may include working with feeder schools, private teachers, mass mailing campaigns, referrals, etc.

8 Recruiting Ideas for Transitioning Students (Elementary to Middle; Middle to High School; High School to College)



Equally important is retaining students already in the program. Careful attention will need to be paid to make sure current members feel part of the organization, that their presence is valued, and that ongoing participation is something important for their own well-being.

Click here to see the S.M.A.R.T Approach to Retention in detail

Watch All 5 Videos on the S.M.A.R.T Approach to Retention (Success Video is Below)

 Click here for more FREE Retention Materials, Resource Links, Video Examples of Retention Ideas, and much more!

Download the FREE graphic to share

Make retention a priority - there are many fun and unique ways to do this, like below:



Efforts to support the music program may take many forms. Some are internal like personal interactions with faculty and administrators. Every interaction is an advocacy opportunity, a chance to share the benefits the music program provides to students, showcase student highlights and achievements.

  1. Engage Music Boosters
  2. Supports Attend All School Board Meetings
  3. Monitor the School Budget Process
  4. Have Your Messages Ready (examples provided)
    Program Safety
    Connection to Social Emotional Learning  (Video Example)
    Articulating Value
  5. Unique Pandemic Funding



COVID-19 Relief Funding Includes Support for Music Education

ESSER Funding Toolkit

ESSER Workshop

Quick Link Resources

Every state has a state music education association. Many have an arts education advocacy group. Connect with these organizations in your state for information and resources that will help support music education in communities.

The Arts Are Education campaign has been developed by the same groups that created the Arts Education is Essential campaign last year. The groups involved in the creation include the Nation Dance Education OrganizationNational Association for Music EducationNational Art Education AssociationEducational Theatre AssociationYoung Audiences Arts for LearningEducation Commission of the States with support provided by NAMMArts Ed NJ and Quadrant Research.

Learn more at: https://www.artsareeducation.org/about

Information on state education agency arts education specialists

Campaign to protect arts education and engage parents in the school budget process. With campaign tools and supporting materials making the case for making arts education programs safe, the link between social emotional learning and arts education, the value of arts education and how to monitor the school budget process available online or via a mobile app.

Learn more at: http://artsednow.org


Click to See More Advocacy ResourcesSteps You Can Take, Funding Resources, Ideas on How to Use Funds, Links, Articles, Resources, Handouts and Videos

How to Advocate for Performing Arts Programs in you School District: Protect Arts Ed Now

How to Monitor the School Budget Process

The 2020 CARES Act and 2021 CRRSA Act (What these acts entail and how to use the funding they provide)

Title IV, Part A Block Grant (Explaining the Every Student Succeeds Act, examples of funding and what it supports)



State Association Sponsored Schedules 

Every state association will approach state-sanctioned festival assessments differently, and it is important to carefully follow state association leadership to find out their current plans. Because information can be fluid during these unprecedented and unpredictable times, state associations need to do their best to communicate early and often with teachers.


State Prescribed Music Lists

Investigate changes made in state required literature lists to see if there are any covid-clause rules allowing to perform/compete at a level lower than previously required.


Regional Festival Schedules

Regional events can provide students and their teachers with unique opportunities to share their hard work and experience the hard work of students and teachers from other schools.


College and University On-Campus Visit Performances

There is great value in visiting college or university campuses to work with clinicians and experience unique performance venues.


In-School Performances

Audiences allowed: If local safety guidelines allow for live attendance at events, teachers should encourage audience attendance at their performances.

Streaming: Teachers may consider continuing the practice of streaming concerts even after social distancing standards are loosened. 


Curricular Travel Opportunities

Curricular travel has been a cornerstone of music programs for many years. Not only are they a great recruitment tool, they give students opportunities to expand their knowledge and broaden their worldview.


Community Requested Performances

Teachers should seek out and accept offers to perform in the community not only as a way of providing a service to the community, but also to bring much needed attention to their programs.


Together As One - Free & Exclusive Music Program 

This fully arranged, designed, and choreographed performance is available for FREE to any school and director seeking performance music through June 2022.


Click to see more about all of the performance opportunities listed above

Teacher Preparation for State Association and MEA Music Events Post-Pandemic (with Craig Manteuffel and Dr. John Taylor, Kansas)


Evaluating Your Students

Realign Expectations (Read More)

Directors must first look at the earliest scheduled performances (football game, marching band, spirit assemblies, concerts) and find literature that is appropriate for technique and range to make the students sound the best they possibly can and this means meeting your students where they are not where they “should” be based on the past.  

“Should be” is not something to consider when rebuilding programs. One strategy for assessing the performance level of the ensemble is to create a reading folder. Begin with what you would generally program as the end goal and then fill the folder with several levels of music ready to read (from too easy to more difficult). It’s an excellent way to gauge a starting point.


7 Alternatives to Teaching Another Music Appreciation Course (Download PDF)

Bucket Drumming, Music Technology, Modern Music, Musical Fitness, Music History, Guitar/Ukulele Class, Music Business


Other Resources

THANK YOU to Music Educators (Read the Press Release)

Artists from across the scope of music and songwriting have come together in collaboration with the National Music Council (NMC) and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) to thank music educators and administrators for their continuing perseverance during these challenging times.


NFHS Music YouTube Channel

This ever growing list of helpful videos features subject experts sharing about advocacy, budgeting, recruitment, scheduling and much more.