Music Educators do a great job of tracking and celebrating their most successful artists. High School Band Directors invite their former student band members to come back as a featured guest performers. University music programs bring back their most successful performing graduates to lecture students, give concerts, or hire them as adjunct professors.
I overheard a private piano teacher proudly boasting that one of her former students performed on a nationally televised show recently. I’m sure she knew at every step of his career where he was studying, who his influences were, where he had performed, and what he had recorded. She was beaming with pride as she spoke, and she had every reason and right to do so.
Yet what about those former students who only continued to play music recreationally or for relaxation? What about those who quit playing music altogether after they left school? Do you know where they are today?
Your music advocacy efforts will have limited impact if you can only demonstrate that you were able to nurture the talents of the gifted artist. The success of your efforts to provide broader funding of music education programs for all students will require testimonials from successes of a different kind.
How about the doctors, engineers, and sales professionals who point to performing in front of a live audience, learning rhythm/timing, or collaborating with other members of an ensemble as building blocks for their future careers outside of music? Where are they, and what do they have to say about that experience? Sure, you believe in the universal benefits of music education and you tell anyone who asks how beneficial that exposure can be, but are you engaging those who can tell that story in a personal and objective way?
From a career in sales and sales management primarily outside of the music business, I can tell you that a salesperson’s assertions are not nearly as effective as a reference or testimonial from a satisfied customer. When I hear a customer telling a friend or colleague in casual conversation what a pleasure it is doing business with my organization, I know that my job of winning over that prospect just became easier by leaps and bounds.
I know that keeping track of former students is difficult. So is making a living as music educator these days, so you get my point.
My high school alma mater picks one football game a year and invites band alums to come back for a few rehearsals, then they perform with current students at halftime. What a great idea.
Keep a directory, invite music alums to your concerts and events, and let them share their story – regardless of whether or not they can still carry a tune!