By: Kathleen Heuer
Congratulations ! Your child has decided to continue on as a music student. The program will be taking your child to the next level, and providing incredible opportunities. But with those opportunities come more responsibilities; not just for your child, but for the program as a whole. There’s way too much work for the teacher to handle, so the booster club supplies a stream of volunteers.
That’s nice, you might think. But I’m way too busy for that.
Think again. Your kid’s teacher isn’t the only one who benefits from this arrangement. So why SHOULD you make time to volunteer with the music booster group?
Do it for (your) children !
Each moment a music educator spends on administrative tasks is a moment that educator could be spending with a student. YOUR student.
Because I value the hard work music educators do each day with hundreds of students and little to no administrative support, I’m happy to pitch in with tasks that I enjoy. Plus I’d bet I could do that task much more quickly and easily than the teacher could; a ten-minute task for me could save her 30 minutes, or an hour. That time goes right back to the students, ensuring that my child gets a better experience.
Part of that experience may include more performance opportunities, which may in turn create more logistical wrangling. I’d much rather the logistics get turned over to parent volunteers, ensuring that the teacher has the time and energy to ensure that students are prepared to make the most of that opportunity.
Plus if you get involved with your kid’s music booster group, you’ll be in a perfect position to spend more time with your teenage child. Sometimes kids this age tend to get a bit prickly, but they still want to know you’re there for them. Being indirectly involved with their music program is the perfect compromise. You’ll be able to see their progress, and who they’re hanging out with. You’ll catch all their performances, and be the first to catch their triumphant smile after a powerful performance. What could be better than that?
Do it for your community
Music is singularly well positioned to build community. Local performance opportunities like concerts, football games, and parades rally a community around the shared experience of the music provided by your kid’s ensemble. So many community events are enhanced by the addition of musical performances. A parade without a marching band? Lame. Adding carolers or small ensembles to holiday community events? Now THERE’S a reason to bundle up.
Everyone within earshot will be improved by your student’s performance. Research says that “people who engage in the arts or watch others do so are more likely to be civically engaged, socially tolerant, and altruistic.”
While the lion’s share of the benefits go to the performers, even those who attend reap some benefit from the experience.
These community performances, by the way, are wonderful opportunities to engage in some stealth music education advocacy. Each pair of ears is likely attached to a voter. If they see your child’s music program as a positive force in the community, next time a funding referendum happens, they’ll be that much more likely to vote your way. Why should you care? It’ll make your kid’s experience better, it’ll strengthen the school and the district, and will benefit students for years to come. Remember that bit about being civically engaged? That means these music students—for year to come— will leave the program to spend their lives making the world, much less your own community, a better place. And who doesn’t want that?
Do it for yourself
You’ll get something out of volunteering for your child’s music program, too! Research shows that volunteers benefit in so many ways.
Volunteering for a group like a music booster group will strengthen your network personally and professionally. Those connections will come in handy someday, whether it’s in your career or your social life. And though the concept of making friends sounds trite, it’s really not. Many people have trouble making friends after college.
“As external conditions change, it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other.…”
Volunteering for a music booster group sure increases the possibility of increasing those interactions. As one veteran music parent in my program puts it each year to freshman band parents, “Look around. Your new best friend may be in this room.” The veteran parents nod—he’s right.
Consider using a music booster group as a laboratory you can use to pick up new hands-on skills. From organizational skills to bookkeeping to logistics to communication to technology, there are so many important tasks to be done, and likely a shortage of people to do them. Due to the nature of the beast, there are almost always outgoing parents who are actively looking to teach someone the skills they’ve learned working for the organization. And it’s a volunteer position, after all. If you mess up, what are they going to do – fire you?
Studies show that volunteers are happier.
• Being generous leads us to perceive others more compassionately; we typically find good qualities in people to whom we are kind
• Being kind promotes a sense of connection and community with others, which is one of the strongest factors in increasing happiness
• Being generous helps us appreciate and feel grateful for our own good fortune
• Being generous boosts our self-image; it helps us feel useful and gives us a way to use our strengths and talents in a meaningful way
• Being kind can start a chain reaction of positivity; being kind to others may lead them to be grateful and generous to others, who in turn are grateful and kind to others
Your commitment as a volunteer also helps protect your health. Research indicates that volunteering can decrease the social isolation that often accompanies depression, as well as improve conditions like heart disease and chronic pain.
And perhaps the number one reason to volunteer is because it’s FUN ! Most everyone involved with a music program is in it for the right reasons, and it shows. The students have a blast, and that positive energy radiates through the program. The experiences shared by everyone involved make happy memories for years to come.
Consider giving a hand to your child’s music program. Any way you look at it, your child’s music program is a force for good: for students, the school, the community and beyond.
With a bit of luck, in a few years a healthier, happier you (and several new friends!) will wonder why you ever