Part of the success of any program revolves around solid community support. Below are some ideas and activities that we’ve tried in the Paramus Public Schools and found to be impactful. What’s more, they gave the Tri-M Music Honor Society (a music honor society that is a program of the National Association for Music Education) students ways to join together with the Paramus community to form meaningful partnerships.

Volunteer If you can, volunteer to serve on a local community board or a townwide foundation. Get to know your community in a more personal way by giving up a small portion of your time to help your neighbors. Besides the fantastic opportunity to give back to the community and make a difference to the people around you, you will help make those positive, lasting connections with your community.

Host an Arts Festival Host an arts festival in your school and invite your community to come out for a refreshing evening of arts and culture. The Paramus District Arts Festivals are free and open to the public, and feature students in the music and arts programs from kindergarten to grade 12. Suggestions on how to put on a festival are below.

HOST AN ARTS FESTIVAL

What we did…

Its impact…

Your turn…

We proposed the idea to the administrative team.

Early in the school year, we chose a date, time and location for the event and filled out the facility paperwork to secure the venue (school).

This enabled teachers to plan ahead, collect art projects throughout the year, and decide on interactive activities and events for the festival.

Discuss with your arts colleagues the possibility of having an art festival at your school.

Brainstorm ideas for the event.

Speak to your administrative team and share your ideas and plans. Tell them why it is important to you and your students.

Students spent the year planning for the arts festival.

Arts students created posters for the event.

Students sent home personal invitations to their families and to the school community.

We advertised online and in the local papers.

This caused a great deal of buzz and excitement within the school community about the arts.

It empowered students to learn the value and importance of advertising for an event.

Students stepped up their commitment to practice and prepare for the event, and art students created beautiful artwork to showcase to their families.

Speak at the next PTA meeting about your music program and the upcoming  arts festival to gain support for your students.

Invite students to the PTA meeting in order to provide a ‘sneak peek’ of what the festival will feature

The entire school celebrated an evening of arts and culture at the District Arts Festival (no cost to attendees).

It raised awareness of the importance of arts education for all children and enabled students to share their talents with the community.

Figure out a performance or service-based event through which your students can bring music and art to life.

We included an Arts Ed Now Campaign as part of an arts advocacy activity.

Everyone attending the arts festival had a chance to sign up to be an arts advocate.

Go online and gather arts advocacy tools from Arts Ed Now (ArtsEdNow.org)

Have your art students take pictures of community members in front of the Arts Ed Now sign.

Instrumental Test Drive Two years ago, we hosted an ‘instrumental test drive’ activity during the Arts Festival where Tri-M music students and our local music store, Music and Arts, partnered together to welcome all community members to try an instrument of interest to them. Not only was it a fun activity, but students, parents, school administrators, and teachers had a chance to try out musical instruments (some for the first time). That school year, we saw an increase in the number of students who enrolled in the instrumental program.

INSTRUMENTAL TEST DRIVE

What we did…

Its impact…

Your turn…

We partnered with the local music store.

This enabled us to have all instruments represented at no cost to the school district.

Call your local music store(s) to see how they can partner with your school district. Local music stores are more than happy to participate in school events. They may also be willing to provide free workshops for teachers (i.e. instrument repair clinics).

Tri-M music students volunteered to work at the event in order to demonstrate and model for younger students the correct way to play the instruments.

This broadens our students’ ability to demonstrate correct technique on their instrument and be a role model for younger musicians.

Borrow as many instruments as you can from feeder schools or ask the local music stores for help.

We sent out follow-up letters about the event, and shared ways parents can get their child started on a musical instrument.

It forged new relationships and conversations with parents, the Tri-M students, and the music teachers.

Send home letters to parents at least three times a year and talk about music-related opportunities for your students.

One interactive service-learning activity in which we participate in the “Senior Prom.” The “Senior Prom” takes place each spring. Jazz band members interview the senior citizens (before the event) to find out what music was popular during the time of their prom. Students then learn and perform the music for the senior citizens at their annual “Senior Prom.”

“SENIOR PROM”

What we did…

Its impact…

Your turn…

Our students interviewed local senior citizens about the music from their youth.

This opens up a music-based conversation with an important and valued segment of the community.  It also teaches our students about musical genres.

Name a segment of your community to whom you can reach out through music conversations.

Students studied the type of music that was prevalent in the youth of these seniors.

This broadens our students’ music repertoire.

Help your students find examples of music that may have been impactful in your own community. This may be based on era, on culture, or genre of music.

Students played music at the “Senior Prom.”

It forged a new relationship between our students, our program, and the senior citizens.

Figure out a performance- or service-based event through which your students can bring new music to life.

Pianos in the Parks Project March is “Music in Our Schools Month” and “Youth Art Month,” and the Paramus school district partnered with the mayor and the Paramus Municipal Council on a project called “Pianos in the Park.” The project is similar to the “Play Me, I’m Yours” public art project that debuted in New York City. During the summer of 2019, three donated pianos were placed in parks and public spaces of Paramus for all to view, play and enjoy. (The pianos were in places where they were protected from the weather.)

Young artists from the Paramus schools had an opportunity to study artists such as Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Judy Chicago, and Jeff Koons, who are known for their public art installations. Students then decided on a theme for an art installation, submitted the sketch to Mayor Richard LaBarbiera for approval, and then painted the pianos with assistance from the art teachers before placing them in the parks. Students were thrilled to participate in a project where their artwork will remain on display in Paramus for the next three years.

The vision for the program is to build community engagement in local parks, to provide students an opportunity to learn about and create public art installations, and to encourage everyone to play a musical instrument. Having “Music in the Air” in the Paramus Public Parks is a welcomed addition to the already pristine spaces.

PIANOS IN THE PARKS

What we did…

Its impact…

Your turn…

We solicited the donation of gently used pianos.

This puts the importance of music into the air of the community.

Start with your students and their extended families. They might have old pianos they no longer use.

We found homes for the instruments in local parks.

This further broadens the visibility of the arts within the community.

Find a public space within your community that can be a safe, free, and engaging home for music and musical instruments, like parks, a library, or community center.

We had an event to launch the use of the pianos.

It brought a celebratory nature to this service learning project for our students, while even further broadening the audience within the community.

Invite students to play at “opening night,” and invite their family and friends.

These are a few examples of activities we’ve tried and found to be impactful to share our love of music and the arts with the Paramus community. Feel free to reach out if you would like further information on any of the projects mentioned above.

Lisa Vartanian is supervisor of visual and performing arts and 21st century life and careers for the Paramus school district.