Jim Collins, Glee, and the Lessons of Success for Your School Music Program

Our family is a big fan of the television show Glee. My wife stated recently that she’d heard that schools are getting requests to add glee clubs based on the success of that show. There’s a lesson here – people follow success.

I’m reminded of the best-selling business book Good to Great, by Jim Collins. In this quote, Collins discusses the evolution of change as it pertains to successful businesses:

“More than anything else, real people in real companies want to be part of a winning team. They want to contribute to producing real results. They want to feel the excitement and the satisfaction of being part of something that just flat-out works. When people begin to feel the magic of momentum—when they begin to see tangible results and can feel the flywheel start to build speed—that’s when they line up, throw their shoulders to the wheel, and push.

And that’s how change really happens.”

If your music program energizes students, others students will follow, and parents will support your efforts. With that thought in mind, documenting your success is very important, and I received this suggestion from a colleague who is a strong music advocate recently:

“For those who still have a music program in your school or district, please write a short note to your principal, superintendent, or school board member sharing what you like about the music program. As the traditional academic year closes, many schools are having their final concerts, and it’s a good time to reflect on the activities of the music program during the year. This can provide material for such communications.

Better to act pre-emptively, before budget proposals roll out next January. Silence tends to invite suggestions that few people care.”

Thanks for your consideration,
Hiram Jackson
Davis, CA

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4 thoughts on “Jim Collins, Glee, and the Lessons of Success for Your School Music Program”

  1. Thanks for posting the comment!

    Another interesting thing about Glee is that it suggests a model in which a music program can be inclusive. The group in Glee has an individual in a wheel chair, a gay student, “jocks”, and students who feel marginalized in different ways.

  2. The real issue is “How do you measure success?” How many trophies the band room has on the wall? How do you get students and the community at large to buy into the pursuit of excellence? Do people actually know what a Glee Club is? Does it matter?

    I agree when you said “If your music program energizes students, others students will follow, and parents will support your efforts.” This is only part of the equation, however. Parents can support you when the school board tries to cut programming. A program that isn’t valued by the entire community that the school district serves will always be in danger of being marginalized.

    It’s up to music educators to advocate for their programs and find ways of engaging the community, as well as create hard data that supports their efforts.

  3. “A program that isn’t valued by the entire community that the school district serves will always be in danger of being marginalized.

    It’s up to music educators to advocate for their programs and find ways of engaging the community, as well as create hard data that supports their efforts.”

    This is a very good point to raise. A school’s music program is one of the few ways that the school or district can promote its brand to the public. Sports and other performing arts (dance, theater) are other equivalent ways. The public not immediately affiliated with the school will develop some positive image of the school through its public performances. The public isn’t going to learn about a school by coming to watch students take a math test. But they will listen to a music group for a while. A school district that cuts a music program cuts off part of its relationship with the public, and it does so at the time when it most needs public support.

    Regular performances at the school auditorium are good, but getting out to perform at art galleries, retirement communities, and Rotary luncheons are additional important ways to promote the brand of the school and of the school district. The public appreciates that you acknowledge them, and they will reciprocate at crucial moments, like for fundraising, parcel taxes, or bond votes.

    I agree that music educators should advocate for their programs, but that only goes so far. One of the single effective things the music educator can do is help organize a booster organization. It provides opportunities for parents to get involved and further extend the advocacy.

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